As you saw, Socratic seminars and round tables are a student-led process but the presence, as well as support of educators and teachers, is crucial in helping students deliver the seminar. There are many ways to design and implement a Socratic seminar. In this sub-unit, we will look at key points to planning and implementing a Socratic seminar, as the learning objective here is for you to learn about the historical use and present usefulness of Socratic Seminars and round tables in decision-making processes.
Stage 1: Planning
In this phase, both teachers and students are getting prepared for the upcoming seminar by studying thoroughly about the issue upon which they have selected to discuss, as well as preparing questions to be addressed by participants. For educators, in this phase, it is important to clearly set the tone and aim of the Socratic seminar to students by explaining to them its key goal and the way it is practised, avoiding thus misunderstandings. Educators should set at this stage clear discussion rules and exemplify discussion procedures to students. For students, this stage serves to explore on their own and question themselves about the selected topic of discussion. They also learn how to bring their own questions to the table.
Stage 2: Implementation
Socratic seminars are usually done in a circle, meaning that students sit in a circle so that they all see each other. The same applies to the round tables, with the only difference being that students gather in a singular round table where they can lean in and discuss ideas (Spencer, 2022). When everyone’s ready, the discussion is triggered by the opening question. What is crucial for educators and students in this stage is to understand that there are no right or wrong answers and that questions brought to the discussion should not lead to absolute answers or statements. Educators should facilitate discussion and exchange of ideas between students. Remember, this is a participatory approach to encourage the critical thinking of students as well as stimulate their collaboration and social interaction skills.
Stage 3: Assessment
For educators, they should set specific metrics for success and evaluation tools to assess the quality and results of the Socratic seminar. Assessment is also useful for both educators and students in order to get evidence-based insights and learn to prepare better for the next seminar.
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