One of the only ways for a Socratic Seminar group to move into the norming stage or the performing stage is for the facilitator to get really good at active listening. Only strong listening skills will enable a facilitator to think and consider which clarifying questions to ask, which follow-up questions might produce quality dialogue, and what coaching actions are needed at any given time in the process.
Any teacher who wants to become a better facilitator must work on his or her personal active listening skills. This can be really simple. Ask open-ended questions and let the students do the talking. Actively listen. Listen some more. Be interested. Demonstrate genuine wonder and curiosity. Follow ideas that you become naturally curious about (not just things that are curriculum-related or “school important”). Be curious enough to not let students say vague things, especially without citing the text.
Practice listening during lunch, at staff meetings, while doing recess duty, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store. Purposefully make times where you focus on listening. Don’t comment on what you hear. Listen to new music. Don’t critique. Don’t worry about analysis. Just spend some time listening. Go on a walk and count how many different types of sound you hear: cars, birds, water, crunching gravel, etc. Practice. Practice. Practice.
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