Socratic Circles

An Activity Theorist's Perspective

Participation at its Finest

During Socratic Circles students are the leaders of the discussion. Students are given a topic by an instructor and are then supposed to expand on the topic and touch on areas using evidence from assignments, texts, or personal experiences.

The Teacher's Role in our 9/18/2014 Discussion

During our class instruction, Dr. Lycke gave us a topic to start off on and attempted to leave us to our own devices. The students seemed anxious and there was quite a bit of "dead air." She then interjected several times to try and kindle discussion, and it generally worked. The students seemed to answer her questions and take the discussion beyond the scope of the original question. However, the discussion tended to die quickly and Dr. Lycke decided to throw out another topic.

The Student's Role in our 9/18/2014 Discussion

The students required a bit of motivation to participate. When prompted with a topic they gave a few replies, with some deciding to bring up some further discussion topics. However, there was some considerate "dead air" when the students did not speak up or try to take the topic anywhere beyond the scope of the discussion prompt. That isn't to say that there wasn't any good discussion. Each student brought a personal experience to the table and related the reading to their own content area. Each student also made their opinions understandable, even to those outside of their content area. There were also some interesting topics raised by the group in general, along with some great reflection on the activity after it had ended.

Where Can We Improve?

I think the main reason for the initial lack of participation was a perceived air of tension. I feel that most discussions often start silently until someone steps up to take the reigns. This seemed to be proven as the discussion went on, as more people began participating and volunteering information towards the end.
There could also be a bigger focus on personal experiences and beliefs in the discussion. While the discussion tended to falter when talking of abstract concepts that held little relevance to personal experience, the students showed a great amount of participation when they were directly asked about their own opinions on their content areas.
Finally, I think having the students start the discussion might be a great way to ease the tension at the beginning of the conversation. If students were assigned to think of one discussion question beforehand, they could start right off without even needing the teacher to lead them. Of course, the teacher should have some back-up questions in case of an emergency but should not plan on using them as a crutch.
Dan Crowley
TCH 219 Sec. 009