Hosting Socratic Seminars – Creating a Culture of Inquiry

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About This Workshop

Robert Frost wrote the famous couplet, “WE DANCE ROUND in a ring and suppose, But the Secret sits in the middle and knows”. This powerful imagery can be used as the shaping influence in the way instructors structure their classes. Socratic seminars, Socratic teaching, Socratic dialogues… these are commonly used phrases which are often loosely translated into an assumption that the mere asking and answering of questions satisfies the requirements necessary to employ and practice this pedagogical tool. Learning how to properly host Socratic seminars and dialogues can be a game-changer in many classrooms. A properly hosted Socratic seminar can

  • properly reassign the responsibility for student learning away from the teacher and back to the students
  • provide students with an opportunity to employ his own tools of learning
  • shift the focus away from the instructor back to its rightful telos: the issue at hand.

What are some of the key questions instructors should consider when preparing for a Socratic seminar? How much reading can a class be prepared to analyze during a Socratic discussion? How should an instructor facilitate a Socratic discussion? How can an instructor make the text the central focus of a seminar? How can an instructor balance being both the seminar leader and also foster a culture of open-ended inquiry?

In this seminar, we will explore these questions together and get a taste for how a Socratic seminar can change the dynamics of a student cohort.

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