Socratic Circles with Backchannel

The students come to class having read a passage from a text and having prepared some questions or points for discussion about it. The teacher arranges the classroom seating into two concentric circles. The students in the inner circle discuss and analyse the text while the students in the outer circle remain silent, observing and commenting on the discussion via short electronic messages projected on a screen in the classroom.

This technique has been referred to as “Socratic Circles” or “Socratic Seminar” with “Backchannel,” and it is described and demonstrated (in an 8th grade classroom) at this site. Have any philosophy professors tried this at the college level?

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John Schwenkler
9 years ago

I used something like this for several years in my introductory courses at my previous job (at a SLAC), though without the electronic stuff. So I guess that would be a Socratic Seminar without Backchannel? Anyway, I think it’s a great method, esp. if you have a class of 20-30 and want to encourage discussion. One tricky part is getting “outer circle” students to do the reading consistently, but (i) that is hard anyway, (ii) you can always have reading quizzes, and (iii) you can also assign each reading for more than one day. I’d be happy to share more details on how I worked it.