Socratic Conversation, Lecturing or Didactic Teaching, and Experiential Learning

Aristotle's School

Socratic Conversation, Lecturing or Didactic Teaching, and Experiential Learning

Confluence Courseware suggests appropriate interpretive and analytic questions in order to facilitate great classroom conversations (virtually or face-to-face) as well as prompts for academic essays and project-based learning experiences in an effort to provide a truly interdisciplinary, liberal arts education.  As such, this digital courseware is organized around the principles of the Paideia method (from the Greek paidos meaning “upbringing”) which incorporates three aspects of learning: the Socratic conversation, lecturing or didactic teaching, and experiential learning.  This pedagogic method focuses on building a strong foundation of basic skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities that can be used for the learner’s entire life.  

Socratic conversation is a formal discussion based on a great work in which the teacher asks primarily open-ended, interpretive and analytic questions with only occasional factual questions for purposes of clarification and evaluative questions for summation purposes and in order to “personalize” the learning experience.  The purpose Socratic conversation is to practice communication skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking as well as to engage in higher-order thinking through summarizing, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing, contrasting, and defending and challenging their own ideas and the ideas of others.

Lecturing or Didactic Teaching introduces and organizes new information through lecture, reading for content, demonstration, and the utilization of the most current multi-media methods and tools.  Through this method, an organized body of facts can be succinctly presented.

Experiential Learning is application work assigned to students so that they can reconsider, research and construct a quality academic work (either a paper or a presentation) involving several academic disciplines. This interdisciplinary approach allows students to apply classroom knowledge in a self-reliant way that leads to life-long learning.

While much of our classroom time (face-to-face or virtual) is dedicated the Socratic conversation and lecturing or didactic teaching, all outside classroom time, in the form of reading, group work, class presentation preparation and the writing of papers, is experiential learning.

“We must not believe the many, who say that free persons only ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers, who say that the educated only are free.”

-Epictetus, Discourses II

While these curricular guides focus on the syntopical approach of Socratic conversation and the experiential learning components, the lecturing or didactic teaching is still quite important and for this reason students should attend all class sessions (face-to-face or online).  If students are taking this class as an online course, please make sure that they visit all of the streaming video content throughout the course content as this helps make the “virtual learning” experience more human.  

In this article in Middle Ground, Rick Wormeli says that lectures, if done right, can be powerful learning experiences (Source: “Saying ‘Yes’ to Lectures” by Rick Wormeli in Middle Ground, October 2010 (Vol. 14, #2, p. 43-44).  Wormeli believes that 90 percent of what students learn from classroom lectures (the most popular teaching technique in secondary schools) comes from the speaker’s physical movements, vocal inflections, and facial expressions—so make certain students are prepared to attend not just a lecture but a theatrical performance full of motion and emotion.

“Wisdom is the fruit of a balanced development.  It is this balanced growth of individuality which it should be the aim of education to secure.”

-Whitehead, Science and the Modern World

Chad Redwing

Chad Redwing, Ph.D., is Academic Editor at Confluence Courseware, LLC.

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