Reflection is the Key to Better Socratic Seminars!
A regular refrain of our presenters at our workshops is “It takes 6-8 seminars with reflection on process before you and your students start to get it, the ‘it’ being civility and thoughtfulness.” At the end of each and every Socratic Seminar it is important to have the students reflect on the “how” of the seminar, not the “what.” Yes, the texts/readings of a Socratic Seminar often come from the curriculum (e.g. a poem, story, passage, article, primary document), but for students to improve their skills and abilities in seminars, they must be aware of how well each individually practiced dialogue and how well the whole group adhered to the Ground Rules. Here are some suggested activities to practice reflection.
Seminar Reflection Suggestions
Be sure the Ground Rules are gone over immediately before each seminar. If not, then that must be done before each seminar. Students must know and understand the expectations for their behavior and performance.
The ultimate goal of a Socratic Seminar is to get the students to take ownership of the quality of the seminar as they strive to practice dialogue.
Sample reflective questions after a seminar for students to write individually:
Which of the Ground Rules:
- Did you, individually, do the best on? Why do you think this was easy?
- Did your seminar, as a whole, do the best on? Why do you think this was easy?
- Did you, individually, do the worst on? Why do you think this was hard for you?
- Did your seminar, as a whole, do the worst on? Why do you think this was hard for the group to do?
- What one improvement can we make in the next seminar to enhance and foster dialogue?
Teachers need to have them write these responses and do one or more of the following:
- Collect them, read them privately, and then select representative comments to share, anonymously, with the class the next day. Read them aloud and discuss with the class the results and how they can improve the next seminar. (Get students to set goals for next seminar!)
- If time allows, right after the seminar, do a think, pair, share. Have students write responses to the one or more of the Ground Rules reflections, and have students then talk in pairs, and then have the teacher facilitate a sharing out of thoughts and feelings about the responses to the questions.