Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Have I Learned about Socratic Seminars

I was introduced to Socratic Seminars in 1996. Two great educators, working for the Indiana DOE--Thompson and Wilkinson, had found a man to conduct workshops. His name was Burt Plumb. He had been trained by a former teacher from the Paideia Schools in Chicago. Burt became my mentor for the next twelve years.

The first trainings began with two days of indoctrination, engaging in seminars and learning how to lead a seminar. Then we were sent back to our classrooms with the assignment to conduct at least one seminar. I recall doing two in every class I taught. We then returned for two more days of training, that began with everyone reporting on their experiences of conducting seminars.

At a later date, Burt came to my school and spent some time coaching me, watching me conduct seminars and talking with me about what I was doing well and how I could improve. Coaching is a very important part of conducting seminars.

Still later, I attended a four day summer workshop where I learned what I needed to know to train other teachers how to conduct Socratic Seminars. Just like summer camp, I made a lot of new friends who were all as interested in the method as was I. We communicated online, through email, and at conferences where we made presentations about seminars. We were disciples, in some ways.

Even later, Burt allowed me to attend trainings he conducted at schools all over Indiana. I was learning from him and I was teaching teachers. Burt and I would stay in a cheap hotel and stay up late at night arguing about the limits of seminars. We always talked about writing a book, but haven't gotten around to it.

The bottom line is that I've been studying Socratic Seminars for at least 15 years. I'm still learning about seminars, but I definitely am on the right path.

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