Socratic Seminar Style Teaching

At Chadwick International, much curricular emphasis is placed on teaching students how to think deeply, make connections to and across material, and how to work well with others. A popular method that fosters growth in all of these goals is student-led discussion.

In particular, the Socratic seminar method of discussion utilizes a focus text and questions, both student and/or facilitator generated. A text can be anything that provides the material worth examining, which might be a story or article, but it could also be a video or a piece of visual art. Through open-ended questions, students construct their ideas and understanding of the text together, without debate, rhetoric, or over-guidance from a teacher. In fact, the teacher usually stays out of the discussion, only stepping in at times to help guide students back to the text. When students participate in this meaning construction together, they learn how to appreciate the ideas of others and are tempted to take risks by trying out their own new ideas. The Socratic seminar is a safe, positive environment where every student has an equal position as they sit in a circle. Students are taught how to provide helpful feedback to their peers, how to participate meaningfully, and how to accept and incorporate feedback they receive from others.

Chadwick students consistently report satisfaction and enjoyment from their seminar experiences. Many humanities classrooms are equipped with a Harkness table and discussion is a central method used in these classes. But students have these opportunities in all of their classes. Even PE teachers utilize this method to help students use each other’s ideas to understand why particular referee calls are made.

We encourage student-centered and inquiry-based learning. Students take more control over their education through the use of student-led discussion techniques like the Socratic seminar.