Socrates in the Classroom : Rationales and Effects of Philosophizing with Children

Sammanfattning: Socratic seminars have long been practiced internationally by educators and philosophers as a supplement to classroom teaching and coaching. However, the rationales and effects of this methodology including how these effects are achieved have not been thoroughly investigated or systematically analyzed. The first section of this study is a theoretical review of literature, investi-gating the pedagogical rationales for using a Socratic methodology. The second section is an analysis of sixteen seminars conducted over three years with children from five to sixteen years old. The students’ body language and group interaction were analyzed closely through a phenomenological approach. The analysis focused on how the seminar culture was taught and learned and whether the intended methodology made a difference. The literature review reveals that the various Socratic traditions describe a set of methodological steps to attain similar objectives. By using these steps, intellectual and dialogical habits of mind are expected to be internalized. The seminar analysis shows that the skilled participants shifted their interaction towards an “inquiring” dialogue over time, and that the distribution of rhetorical power changed to a more cooperative communication. The students’ learning proceeded through a series of stages, partly different from the anticipated ideal. The facilitator’s ability to handle rule breaking, and to create a safe environment for intellectual exploration, was significant. The findings show that intricate “silent” moves like gestures and glances helped maintain a productive and egalitarian seminar culture. The participants developed their thinking skills over time, evolving from relativism to critical examination.