Thursday, November 06, 2014

The 4Cs and Socratic Seminar

Teaching and learning has always called for a blend of art and science, a blend of the how and the what.

As we continue to be conscientious about how we teach, we need to think about how the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity)  can naturally play into our classrooms. When the super skills of the 4Cs merge with the 3Rs, long-lasting academic skills emerge.

The 4Cs are not new, but these teaching and learning components are being re-emphasized as we focus on graduating students who are able succeed in the world of college and the world of work, students who meet the demand of “What Employers Want.”

Teachers have approached the 4Cs in many ways, sometimes unconsciously, but one of the most powerful instructional strategies used to meet the demands of curriculum and the 4Cs is found in conducting Socratic Seminars.

Socratic Seminars involve a deep classroom discussion or dialogue based on a close or critical reading of a rich text (or art or music), a text that aligns with the standards, that invites multiple interpretations, a text that students have to negotiate to find meaning. This search for meaning can be done in all content areas.

After reading the text, students come to the classroom armed with questions that are driven by their curiosity, not driven by the need to be right. Questions breath life into Socratic Seminars, which complements Socrates’ belief that students can improve their reasoning skills and ultimately move toward more rational thinking as they investigate knowledge through questions. Socrates knew that “questions drive the human mind into critical thought. [...] while answers often signal a full stop in thought” (Copeland 7).

Socratic Seminar directly supports communication, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, for questions are woven throughout the 4 Cs as seen in the rubrics from EdLeader21:

  • Communication: “Asks probing QUESTIONS that lead to greater understanding and help the collaborators think more deeply about the discussion.”

  • Creativity: “Shows skill in asking open-ended QUESTIONS that lead to the generation of original ideas.”

  • Critical Thinking: “Generates powerful QUESTIONS closely related to the problem, investigation, or challenge.”

  • Collaboration: While this C does not specifically mention questions, it demands that questioning take place as leaders move work of the group forward by “identifying points of agreement and disagreement,” by “looking at ideas from multiple perspectives,” by “displaying CURIOSITY about the quality of work” -- all of which surface during Socratic circles.

Conducting a Socratic Seminar will have students swimming in the Cs of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. as well as in a positive classroom culture where community building, conflict resolution, and civil conversations are present as teachers foster capable, curious, and confident learners.

Alright, that may be a bit much, an overdose of the Cs, but from what we have observed and experienced, Socratic Seminar is worth pursuing. If you are interested in learning more about this instructional approach, check out various resources online and look for an upcoming latte session.

Socratic Seminar Handouts from AVID:

Socratic Seminar Observation Checklist:



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