Socratic Seminars are powerful opportunities for students to be fully engaged in their learning. Today, I am not focusing on what, how, or why.
I am focusing on who – the Socratic Teacher.
In this way, I hope to lift your practice to new levels.
Socrates believed that a continuous journey of self-improvement was vital for every person. As educators, we are on our own journey, but also guiding the journeys of our students. Socratic Seminars can create opportunities for students to be more receptive to new learning and more effective in gaining knowledge and increasing understanding.
To be successful at designing and facilitating Socratic Seminars, the Socratic Teacher must be able to live and model positive attitudes about inquiry and self-reflection. In my experience, teachers who do not embrace a Socratic Temperament, will have a difficult time bringing a Socratic Seminar to life in their classrooms.
Characteristics of the Socratic Temperament:
The Socratic Teacher loves to discover her own errors.
The Socratic Teacher embraces the discovery of error as a joyful moment. The teacher cherishes this moment of realization because a step towards knowledge and understanding is taken with every misunderstanding we uncover. The capacity to examine our own cherished ideas and beliefs without the fear is an essential part of the Socratic Temperament and the Socratic Seminar. Students learn this best by watching their teachers live it.
The Socratic Teacher is in touch with her own ignorance.
Socrates said that the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. The Socratic Teacher sees her students as teachers and embraces learning from them. She knows that it is possible for the students to be wise in unexpected ways. This realization makes it easy for the Socratic Teacher to treat all students as sources of understanding, who have the power to teach the teacher.
The Socratic Teacher models the joy of hard work in the quest for knowledge.
The Socratic Teacher sees knowledge as a great treasure. She experiences true satisfaction in working hard to gain knowledge. Thus, the Socratic Teacher takes opportunities to demonstrate and communicate the value of hard work to her students and the joy that can be found in the work of learning.
The Socratic Teacher experiences deep curiosity and the desire for self-improvement.
It is impossible to value knowledge so greatly yet remain indifferent. The Socratic Teacher is deeply curious and always desires to improve her understanding. The development of understanding is seen as essential to self-improvement. The Socratic Teacher creates opportunities to model a deep curiosity and passionate desire for self-improvement for her students.
Knowing this, I try to make small shifts every day to empower students as learners. Designing, facilitating, and coaching Socratic Seminars is when I feel most connected to my Socratic Temperament. As I live the teaching life with a Socratic Temperament, I know that when the students engage in Socratic Seminars I can step back and observe, assess, and reflect on their powerful learning. The results are amazing for my students and for myself. I encourage you to embrace your own Socratic Temperament!
Q1. How can (or how do) Socratic Seminars support high levels of student learning and engagement?
Q2. What can Socratic Seminars do for your classroom culture?
Q3. How can Socratic Seminars shift the power of learning to our students?
Q4. How does the Socratic Temperament align with your learning or teaching style?
Q5. In what other ways can the Socratic Temperament influence student learning?
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Instructional Coach at Murphy Elementary