Do You Have 21st-Century Skills to Help Your Students Succeed?
Do Your Students Have 21st-Century Skills to Think for Themselves?
The Power of the Socratic Classroom has the answers you are looking for—answers that will supply the strategies to show students how to succeed into the future. A future that has unknown products, unidentified jobs, and unanticipated challenges.
In Socratic Seminar, teachers shift to the role of facilitator, where they help their students develop the collaborative interpersonal skills, the critical and creative thinking skills, and the speaking and listening skills to face the upcoming challenges of the 21st century.
Charles Fischer has taught in public and private schools in a variety of settings, from rural Maine to inner city Atlanta. In the past 20 years, he has worked with a wide range of students from 4th grade to AP English and has been nominated for Teacher of the Year four times. He has his Master’s degree in Teaching & Learning from the University of Southern Maine, and received his B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Binghamton University. His latest book, The Power of the Socratic Classroom, has won four awards, including the NIEA Best Education Book. His first novel, Beyond Infinity, won a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award bronze medal (YA fiction). His areas of expertise are Socratic Seminar, Active Listening, Inquiry, Teaching & Learning, and Critical & Creative Thinking. He is currently working on a book of poetry, a short story collection, and several novels.
Sometimes I get asked about the fishbowl variation for discussions, so I'd like to make my position clear. Firstly, any lively and engaging conversation is worthwhile. If the fishbowl works for you, then you might as well keep it going.
The main problem I have seen and experienced is that the movement involved can be highly distracting and can take away from the flow of good conversation. Think about it: some conversations are hard enough to enter, to get the timing right. Add the need to get up and change seats before talking and some students simply won't be able to contribute effectively.
The point here is simple: dialogue is already difficult enough, so anything that can possibly get in the way becomes a hindrance.
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
One common variation is the fishbowl discussion, where only a small number of inner circle participants are allowed to talk about the text. An outer circle participant can exchange places with someone in the inner circle if he or she wants to speak. This is done either by signaling an inner circle participant and swapping places, or by using a “hot seat.” The hot seats are empty chairs in the inner circle that outer circle participants may use to enter the conversation. This model often breaks down quite easily because of the movement involved and the eagerness with which some students seek a hot seat. Although various strategies can still make this version work, nothing truly compares to a full seminar where student talk time is maximized.