When I taught ELA, I used Socratic seminar a lot. It was a way to have student-generated discussions and it was something that I learned during student teaching. In this post, I am going to give you some information and tips for using this in science class!
What is Socratic seminar?
It is a method of discussion inspired by Socrates. Socrates believed in order to teach people you would not give them answers. Rather you would ask questions and help them arrive at answers on their own.
So how does it work?
For ELA I had students prepare questions and evidence for something that we had read. This is a viable option for Science as well, however, I think it could also work to discuss a phenomenon or an experiment completed in class. This is where science Socratic seminar would be different. It would not be entirely literary based.
Before you try to implement a Socratic seminar, I think it would be very important to explain what evidence is in science. I have found this is the most tricky part for my students.
I would also go over the following guidelines and explicitly explain what will happen and how things will work.
Student Guidelines for Socratic Seminar:
1. Come prepared having read the required reading or completed the activity for discussion, and with some questions or topics to discuss.
2. Be an active listener and speaker. Contribute to the discussion.
3. One Voice – only one person can speak at one time.
4. Be respectful (even if you do not agree).
5. Use evidence or examples from your reading or activity.
6. Explain your answers – a simple yes or no is not acceptable you must explain.
Role of Student and Teacher
As a teacher, you will simply be a facilitator of the discussion. Students will be expected to generate the discussion. I usually have a checklist ready and I explain to my students that they must contribute to the discussion a set number of times. Then I just check off when they contribute.
Want to try it?
I am excited to try this in my classes and I hope you will try it too. Below is a resource to help you further (I created it for ELA teachers, but I think it is helpful for science too).