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How many American teachers employ the "Socratic" method of teaching ?I am looking for...

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joaniejob | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:25 AM via web

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How many American teachers employ the "Socratic" method of teaching ?

I am looking for feedback from other teachers who have been successful with "Socratic Seminars."

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anthonda49 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:38 AM (Answer #2)

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I would say not many. It is useful to pose questions to students in order for them to ponder an idea and share. Then others could respond. Perhaps in high school, but in middle school, students' attention spans would not be suited to any length of time in Socratic dialogue.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 29, 2010 at 3:41 AM (Answer #3)

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I think that it will be really difficult to find hard statistics or data to answer the question.  On one level, the Socratic Method is something that cannot be really "taught" in teacher preparation classes.  The notion of introducing questioning techniques as a way to explore complexity can be explained and articulated, but I think that being able to teach teachers to be "Socratic" might be going against the spirit of the methodology.  Additionally, some teachers facilitate the Socratic method of teaching in small groups where students ask one another questions and probe the depths of content.  In this light, teachers are not being Socratic, but rather the students are.  Finally, I would say that it might be more difficult to find data to support this because there are teachers who are feeling pressured through a variety of external means to ensure that success on high stakes standardized assessment transpires through district approved curriculum.  There are times when this takes the place of alternate methodologies such as Socratic discussion.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:30 AM (Answer #4)

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There are actually a few that I know that try to do so, but one of the problems with the Socratic method in today's high school environment is that the training high school students receive in general makes the kind of dialogue necessary for a socratic seminar impossible.  Because we focus everything around the one right answer method, where any wrong answer or even the wrong method for getting the right answer is penalized, the idea of having students capable of suggesting things they aren't sure are right or might even think are wrong is difficult to imagine at best.

I do think that a few have had somewhat limited success thanks to some very strong kids and very intense efforts on their part.

But in most high schools, the focus on standardized testing as well makes it impossible to even try.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 1, 2010 at 10:26 AM (Answer #5)

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I employ it less in a full classroom, because there is less chance to develop the skill of participating in that on the part of the students, and less time overall to cover material, measure student progress and start such a valuable discussion in 58 minutes of classtime.

I employ socratic method all the tyime in an after school study/tutoring program we call "Academy" in which I am able to work on advanced history concepts with small groups of 6 - 10 students at a time.  I think it is the most effective and valuable teaching I get to do.

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ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM (Answer #6)

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I know a few teachers who use Socratic Seminars in the classroom, but to be honest, I feel that many teachers shy away from this method of discussion because teachers must relinquish control to the students. Completely.  And this is hard, I know it is.  I use seminar discussions in my classroom, and I can share with you that on seminar day students are excited--and it IS one day they don't like to miss.  I start them out slowly, at the start of the school year, with lots of scaffolding and preparation. I elect our Socrates for the discussion, who sports the Socratic hat (a goofy hat I picked up in Old Sacramento), and who leads the discussion.  I stay out of the circle completely.  I chart discussion and monitor. That's it. The discussion is typically rich and unique (each and every time and for every class).  I learn more and more after every novel's seminar. 

I have to say, Socratic Seminar is a success in my classroom.

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jmgores | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 11, 2010 at 10:02 AM (Answer #7)

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I have used the Socratic method in my classroom after we have read a selection of literature. I may read it aloud first, and model a word selection that creates a question in my mind. (There are endless possibilities of interpretation in well-written literature.)I then have students t-chart questions based on a word/phrase they have selected as “significant”.   Later in the class period or perhaps the next day (break it up how you see it fit), we go into discussion.  The real trick in Socratic method is the teacher as a model. It takes honed skills to not allow a few to govern the group. Be familiar with many angles and open to all possibilities! I tell students if they can support it in text or example, it is arguable. Using written and oral independent practices before discussion allows student autonomy and valuable instructor feedback.  Students "see" their thinking. Less assertive auditory students also benefit from class discussions: improving skills as they listen. Student led groups can be problematic. Consistent monitoring of student groups is essential. Individual student esteem/performance may quickly deteriorate when a few academic “bullies” insist that there is only one right answer.  The achievement gap fiercely breeds as a result. My student feedback reports indicate that monitored class discussions are preferred. Developmentally, secondary students are preparing for flight; they respond positively to a well-planned, flexible, Socratic lesson.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 14, 2011 at 1:17 PM (Answer #8)

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I love the Socratic Method.  I employ a technique called Socratic Seminar in my English classes.  The students sit in a circle, all looking at one another and all equal, and ask and answer their own questions.  All I do is observe and grade them on the complexity of both the questions and answers.  They prepare questions ahead of time, according to Bloom's Taxonomy, and bring them to the discussions.  We pass around an object, and I give each child poker chips to track how many times they contribute.

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hcakes9 | eNoter

Posted January 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM (Answer #9)

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I have used the Socratic method in my classroom after we have read a selection of literature. I may read it aloud first, and model a word selection that creates a question in my mind. (There are endless possibilities of interpretation in well-written literature.)I then have students t-chart questions based on a word/phrase they have selected as “significant”.   Later in the class period or perhaps the next day (break it up how you see it fit), we go into discussion.  The real trick in Socratic method is the teacher as a model. It takes honed skills to not allow a few to govern the group. Be familiar with many angles and open to all possibilities! I tell students if they can support it in text or example, it is arguable. Using written and oral independent practices before discussion allows student autonomy and valuable instructor feedback.  Students "see" their thinking. Less assertive auditory students also benefit from class discussions: improving skills as they listen. Student led groups can be problematic. Consistent monitoring of student groups is essential. Individual student esteem/performance may quickly deteriorate when a few academic “bullies” insist that there is only one right answer.  The achievement gap fiercely breeds as a result. My student feedback reports indicate that monitored class discussions are preferred. Developmentally, secondary students are preparing for flight; they respond positively to a well-planned, flexible, Socratic lesson.

Dear Jmgores,

It sounds like you have alot of experience using the socratic method.  I am  planning a social development lesson for National Board Certification and am planning to use this method with a student who is very apprehensive, excludes herself from group activities, stammers, is extremely low academically, a senior in high school but has good problem solving skills. I want to get her talking and expressing herself.  What do you think?

E-mail me back at veldascott@aol.com.  I am using a friend's e-notes account!

Thanks!

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krasik | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:00 PM (Answer #10)

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Researching the use of the socratic method in high schools and middle schools and find your posts very valuable. Could you please tell me what if any feedback you've gotten from parents about the effects of this method on their children's general thinking/learning abilities?

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