The gradual release of responsibility model essentially means relinquishing power as the teacher and authority figure and then empowering students to take ownership of their learning. There are many forms of power in the classroom and a teacher who wants to pursue student-led conversation in a major way will always need to be aware of how that power manifests and shifts. A Socratic Seminar facilitator must shed the power of authority in order to become a true participant in the class, but there are many other types of power that must be taken into account. A teacher may work diligently to shed his or her authority mantle, but then may sit at the head of the classroom and thereby reestablish the didactic power dynamic unwittingly.
Power manifests in many forms, even very small ways, such as clothing. I’ve known teachers who will change their clothes for Socratic Seminar, just to appear less teacher-like and, therefore, less authoritarian. Sometimes this involves simply removing a tie, wearing a hat or adding a scarf, but even such simple changes can be effective.
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