Socrates understood formative assessment 2500 years ago. His student would make an assertion and then the Great One would start probing. Much like an annoying 3-year-old, he’d keep asking questions and then follow ups. Socrates’ good natured interrogations would cause students to bob and weave…refine and alter. Eventually, the young Athenian would strike bedrock. In the process of finding that firm foundation, this ancient adolescent would demonstrate a solid and evolving understanding of the concept. They still may disagree with classmates and Socrates for that matter, but those disagreements would be based on reason.
Unfortunately, when it comes to complex ideas in modern classrooms, many students keep a low profile, totally disengaged, profoundly intimidated. In order to bring such students out of the weeds and into the intellectual light of day, copy the Great One and conduct a Socratic Circle.
Here’s a blog I authored in 2013 on how to setup an epic Socratic Circle.
But, perhaps you’ve tried a Socratic Circle and it didn’t end well. That’s where my guest Michaella Young comes in. Michaella is one of those student voices…primary sources…that I love to feature.
Please consider Michaella your Socratic Circle Customer Service Rep. She’ll give you advice on how you can fix yours up, or give you the confidence to try one!
Many Socratic Circles are unsuccessful.
Let a Socratic Circle expert guide you on how to plan, then execute, a great one.
What You Can Do Tomorrow?
- Designate an upcoming, meaty, complex topic for a Socratic Circle.
- Create a number of thought-provoking prompts and provide them to the students prior to the circle.
- Divide the class into 2 groups.
- Only intervene when necessary.
Socratic Circles are an engaging way to help all students grasp complex ideas. They also constitute a wonderful formative assessment.