Going Deeper in Socratic Seminar Leadership: MAIEUTIC

At Socratic Seminars International, it is our belief, experience, and work with educators to promote the Four Essential Elements of Socratic Seminars. Foremost is for a leader to practice” the dual role of being a leader and a co-participant, a co-participant who models “wonder, curiosity and thoughtfulness.” The only way this can happen is for the leader to “be in the circle, with the students.”

The goal of a successful Socratic Seminar is “An Enlarged Shared Understanding of Ideas, Issues, or Values through DIALOGUE.” This comes about from practiced and experienced Socratic Seminar leaders who understand that “it takes 6-8 seminars with collective reflection on the process before students and leader start to get it: the “’it’ being civility and thoughtfulness.” It is a practice, not a program.

In essence, the best Socratic Seminars result in students who are “heard, understood, and valued” for their participation and contributions. They are given voice. A powerful description of an ideal Socratic Seminar is for it to be Maieutic.

Maieutic comes from maieutikos, the Greek word for “of midwifery.” In one of Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates applies maieutikos to his method of bringing forth new ideas by reasoning and dialogue; he thought the technique analogous to those a midwife uses in delivering a baby (Socrates’ mother was a midwife). A teacher who uses maieutic methods can be thought of as an intellectual midwife who assists students in bringing forth ideas and conceptions previously latent in their minds.

So, yes, our metaphor is to become mid-wives for our meaning-making students, to assist, model, and encourage them to make their own meaning of the text and its ideas, issues, or values.

Wherever one might be in the journey of Socratic Seminar Leadership, it is a practice well-worth the time, effort, and experiences.