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.
The important element, of course, is the word 'active.' Too often classrooms are still highly based in passive listening modes. Even when the activity is hands-on and engaging, the actual times students need to listen are still passive interactions. Active listening means that students must ultimately manage their own understandings. The speaking-listening connection is a negotiation and it's the listener who must communication eventual understanding.
There are specific skills and actions involved: asking useful questions, paraphrasing, summarizing, seeking clarity and specification, and more. When done well, it is a very active process!
The Power of the Socratic Classroom
Considering how often students must actually listen in school—Ball and Brewer suggest up to 97% of class time—it is surprising that there is rarely direct teaching or practicing of active listening as a skill, especially past primary grades. Perhaps in the lower grades there are too many other language development skills that take priority. Perhaps in the older grades, teachers assume that the students can listen well since they have had hundreds of hours of listening. Perhaps, as Leonard points out, it is because much of our sensory learning is self-taught when we are very young. Whatever the reasons, many students do not know how to actively listen.
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