This is a guest post by Lori Walk, faculty in Education and Reading. 

What will we talk about today?  In order to increase engagement and promote critical thinking, all of my classes (including dev ed) are trained in an adapted Socratic Seminar format.  A small group sits in an inner circle and the rest of the class sits in a larger outside circle.  I facilitate the discussions with comments and focus questions.   Inner circle participants make comments that typically begin with either “According to the text . . . “  or “Based on my experience . . .”  Just like the WWF, outer circle students “tap in” when they want to participate in the inner circle.  Students are able to bring their textbook and completed Cornell notes with them as they participate in Socratic Seminar.

I like the quality of the discussions because students stay more focused on the text and the structure doesn’t allow for bluffing.  If students are stuck, they can ask a question or clarify an idea with someone else.  Based on oral and written feedback, almost all students report that they learn from each other’s ideas.  Shy students identify Socratic Seminar as one of the activities that helps them feel more confident over time.

This link provides more detailed information about Socratic Seminar:

Feel free to contact me, Lori Walk, at 5-3751 if you’d like to see this strategy in action.  I would enjoy your comments and suggestions.

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