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Why use Socratic seminars in your health education class?

What is a Socratic Seminary? A Socratic seminar is a formal, topic-based discussion where the leader asks open-ended questions. Throughout the Socratic seminar, students will listen carefully to the comments of others, think critically, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of their peers. Students will learn to work cooperatively and to ask questions in an intelligent and civilized manner. Socratic seminar allows students to apply practical methods to a topic being discussed and allows them to see certain points from several different perspectives. Throughout the discussion, the teacher should intervene minimally and in doing so should lead students to a specific topic or ask an additional open-ended question on a topic that is already being discussed. Giving students the freedom to participate in a Socratic discussion will increase student participation and learning.

A Socratic discussion can be used on any topic, including history, language arts, sociology, etc. but I would like to discuss the use of a Socratic discussion in a health education class. Incorporating a Socratic seminar into your health education class will prevail in most topics such as living a healthy life, developing good character, physical activity, nutrition and health, stress management, emotional issues, relationships, obesity , drug use, environmental health, etc. This is because these topics are very relevant to the daily lives of your students. You can lead your students into a discussion on these topics with a current event article, after a discussion lecture, after watching a YouTube clip and linking it to something that may be happening or happening at your school. Also, these are all topics that I am sure your students are interested in, listening to and participating in every day. With proper questioning technique on the part of the leader (teacher), you will be able to generate a very scholarly discussion among your students, you may be surprised how passionate some of your students are about specific topics.

The key to getting your students involved and really engaged is asking the right discussion questions. Once you are on a specific topic in class, start a Socratic seminar by asking a question on that topic, once some students have responded, start asking questions like what do you mean by that? How is this related? Could you give me an example? Could you explain more what is assuming? Why do you think that well? What led you to that belief? What is an alternative? Are you hinting at this? Etc. Again, you might be surprised how some students can passionately agree with some of their peers’ answers and comments, or disagree and start debating, which can be a good learning experience for students because they will start to see the topic / discussion from multiple perspectives which can enhance the learning experience.

The purpose of a Socratic seminar is to engage your students at a higher level of thinking to promote learning. Incorporating Socratic seminars into your classroom will lead your students to discussion, debate, critical thinking, acquiring greater interests, and the ability to apply practical methods. “He who learns but does not think is lost” Confucius (551-479 BC).

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