Some 2400 years ago, Socrates walked the streets of Athens surrounded by a group of pupils who hoped to enrich their understanding of the meaning of life and find solutions to its many problems. They learned through dialogue with their teacher, rather than by passively listening to his expertise. What he taught them was how to question -- how to use inquiry to empower themselves.
In contrast to the modern teacher, he did not question them in order to find out what they already know or seek to embarrass them by exposing what they did not know. Instead, he allowed them to synthesize the opinions of their "classmates" and draw connections to their own beliefs and experiences.
In similar fashion, in the Socratic Seminar, the modern teacher gathers his pupils in groups of 10 to 25 to discuss a select textual passage or open-ended questions. The subject matter may be from any discipline. Students dialogue rather than debate. Their questions are meant to deepen understanding rather than to challenge another's beliefs. Students, through practice, analyze inferences, implications, and assumptions in the text. They seek clarification of other's statements, rather than jump to conclusions.
Ideally, the Socratic method also creates better citizens. The seminar can only be successful if the participants listen attentively to their classmates and appreciate exactly what they hear. As all students, as well as the teacher, engage in discussion as equals, the ideal democratic forum based on mutual respect is created.A Socratic seminar is
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