Critical Thinking

Socratic Seminar or Socratic Circle\ The Socratic method of teaching is based on Socrates’ theory that it is more important to enable students to think for themselves than to merely fill their heads with “right” answers. Therefore, he regularly engaged his pupils in dialogues by responding to their questions with questions, instead of answers. This process encourages divergent thinking rather than convergent.

Students are given opportunities to “examine” a common piece of text, whether it is in the form of a novel, poem, art print, or piece of music. After “reading” the common text “like a love letter”, open-ended questions are posed.

Open-ended questions allow students to think critically, analyze multiple meanings in text, and express ideas with clarity and confidence. After all, a certain degree of emotional safety is felt by participants when they understand that this format is based on dialogue and not discussion/debate.

Dialogue is exploratory and involves the suspension of biases and prejudices. Discussion/debate is a transfer of information designed to win an argument and bring closure. Americans are great at discussion/debate. We do not dialogue well. However, once teachers and students learn to dialogue, they find that the ability to ask meaningful questions that stimulate thoughtful interchanges of ideas is more important than “the answer.”

Participants in a Socratic Seminar respond to one another with respect by carefully listening instead of interrupting. Students are encouraged to “paraphrase” essential elements of another’s ideas before responding, either in support of or in disagreement. Members of the dialogue look each other in the “eyes” and use each other names. This simple act of socialization reinforces appropriate behaviors and promotes team building.

Problem Based Learning
Problem-based learning (PBL) is focused, experiential learning (minds-on, hands-on) organized around the investigation and resolution of messy, real-world problems.… PBL curriculum provides authentic experiences that foster active learning, support knowledge construction, and naturally integrate school learning and real life; this curriculum approach also addresses state and national standards and integrates disciplines.

Students are engaged problem solvers, identifying the root problem and the conditions needed for a good solution, pursuing meaning and understanding, and becoming self-directed learners. Teachers are problem-solving colleagues who model interest and enthusiasm for learning and are also cognitive coaches who nurture an environment that supports open inquiry.