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.
A lot of schools have debate clubs or debate teams, and most students learn public speaking at various times. But there are far fewer dialogue clubs and almost no "public listening" courses. Some schools do have philosophy clubs or similar groups where students can have genuine conversations. Some of my colleagues at the International Listening Association have even created projects where their college students offer free listening to their peers. Generally, we do not have the dialogue equivalent of speech and debate clubs.
But I think we should. Students need safe circumstances to express themselves. They need occasions to hear and understand other viewpoints. And they need opportunities to have their ideas challenged in safe ways, to refine and possibly modify their thinking, perhaps even change their minds altogether.
Changing your mind is one of the ultimate acts of learning. It requires a great deal: willingness, open-mindedness, active listening, critical thinking, comparison, humility, and much more. Changing your mind can be scary but it means you are willing to grow into the unknown. And now I am feeling the point of this writing coming to conclusion: “If we can change our minds, we can change the world.”
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
Participants in Socratic Seminar engage in dialogue, which differs from both discussion and debate. Examining the roots of the words themselves is revealing. Discuss and discussion both come from roots meaning “to dash to pieces or agitate” (think of the word concussion). Debate comes from the notion of “fighting, quarreling or even beating.” Dialogue, however, has its roots in the ideas of “speaking across” and “to collect and gather.” Of the three, dialogue is clearly the most cooperative and collaborative.
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