Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Socratic Teaching in Practice

Today I was required to teach a math lesson to my university methods class. I taught it Socratically, and in hindsight I realized that it was my first experience doing so! My peers hated it. They were polite, but I could tell the only thing on their mind was, "We didn't do anything! There were no activities! There's no difference between lecture and what you just did!" Part of that was because it was my first time teaching using this method, and the other part was because the group I taught was not familiar with it. If I had a regular class of students I taught using this method frequently, they would have been more at ease with it.

I did think, however, that because teaching Socratically is so different than a regular lesson, I should announce what kind of teaching I will be doing before I begin. A good way to do this might be, "We are going to have a Socratic dialogue about decimals, so please turn your desks into a circle." Having the circle will definitely indicate to the students that they will be working collaboratively to answer questions. Having my "students" sit normally today indicated to them that I would be teaching a normal lesson, and they were confused when my lesson didn't meet their expectations.

I may also need to work on the questions I ask. I tried to use a new classroom management today, as well, using the word "together" to indicate when a choral response was requested. It didn't work so well because it was my first time using it and I wasn't in the habit of using it, but more importantly because it clashed with the dialogue. I asked a lot of low order thinking questions that were answered in one word responses so that I could use the "together" trick, and this did not lead to good dialogue. The "together" trick would have been good in a classroom that needs a lot of management, and it seems that Socratic discussion works better in one that doesn't need as much management, at least after the students have gotten used to the routine of the discussion. At any rate, the technique as unnecessary and a hindrance.

This is what I should remember for my future Socratic teaching:
*Announce in some way when I will teaching Socratically
*Remember those higher order thinking questions. Refer to Bloom's as much as necessary
*There should only be one classroom management technique used at this time, respect. Remind students to raise their hands any time they have something to add to the discussion.