AVID Career Research

Socratic Seminars


"The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

Guidelines for Participants in a Socratic Seminar

1.      Refer to the text often. It is the basis of the whole discussion. The goal is to understand the author's motivation or claims or bias; to explore ideas, issues, and values;  to reflect on the text and its bigger connection to the world and critical thinking.

2.      Your input into the discussion can include encouragement of another class member, a request for clarification, a disagreement on a point, an assertion, a connection to another piece of text, an anecdote from your own life experience, etc. Your input is not limited to statements such as, "I think paragraph X is saying this..."

3.      Be prepared to participate! Read the article thoroughly the night or week before. Annotate the text and come ready to address certain concepts. If you didn't read the article, be honest. (We'll all be able to tell!)

4.    Stick to the point and speak concisely. Watch your tone of voice and remain respectful at all times. Make notes or Post-It stickies about ideas you want to come back to.

5.     Listen with the intent to understand. If you find your mind preparing your next argument, you weren't listening.

6. Speak up so that everyone can hear you. Talk to each other, not to the teacher.

What is the difference between a seminar (dialogue) and a debate?
  • Dialogue is collaborative: multiple sides work toward shared understanding.
    Debate is oppositional: two opposing sides try to prove each other wrong.
  • In dialogue, one listens to understand, to make meaning, and to find common ground.
    In debate, one listens to find flaws, to spot differences, and to counter arguments.
  • Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participant's point of view.
    Debate defends assumptions as truth.
  • Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
    Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
  • In dialogue, one submits one's best thinking, expecting that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it.
    In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
  • In dialogue, one searches for strengths in all positions.
    In debate, one searches for weaknesses in the other position.
  • Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of answers and that cooperation can lead to a greater understanding.
    Debate assumes a single right answer that somebody already has.
    Debate demands a conclusion.


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  • Changing Education Paradigms
    Description: Watch this animated video on Sir Ken Robinson's TED Speech. Take Cornell Notes on his speech regarding education reform. Be prepared to compare it to the articles we are about to read.

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  • Take Back Your Education
    Description: Read this article on education reform & take Cornell Notes. Compare it to the previous article.

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  • Trends in Education Reform
    Description: Read about the history of education reform. What methods have already been tried? What is working and what isn't? We will examine this site in groups and you will report out on your section.

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  • Waiting for Superman Movie
    Description: Be ready to watch the movie "Waiting for Superman." You will take Cornell Notes during this movie and begin to SYNTHESIZE everything you've learned about education reform.

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  • Michael Wesch: Digital Ethnography
    Description: Kansas State University Professor of the Year, Michael Wesch, makes a video with his students on the changing college student. WE WILL MAKE A VIDEO LIKE THIS ONE!!

  • Citizen Children
    Description: Read the AVID article about undocumented students who would like to pursue the college dream. What legislation is current under discussion? What does this mean for MHS students? How may this alter the AB540 process currently in effect? What problems, obstacles, objections do you foresee from the public?

  • Hispanic Youth
    Description: Examine the boom in the Hispanic populations across North America. Compare to the previous article.

  • Immigrant Jobs
    Description: What issues does that article address that the other two do not?
Socratic Seminar Demonstration

Description: Fantastic example of how a Seminar can work with "Wingmen."

  • StatusPuts Graduates at Risk
    Description: Read about this issue from a student's personal experience. Does putting a name and face to this issue make you change your mind about anything? Can you relate to the student?

  • Minorities Soon to Be Majority
    Description: Read about the new makeup of the 21st century classroom. How do you think educators will adjust curriculum? Is the U.S. prepared for this trend? Why/ why not?

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