What is the Paideia Based Socratic Seminar?

Paideia Seminar is an approach to Socratic Seminar that is rooted in the Paideia method of education, which encourages active learning. A Paideia Seminar is a collaborative, intellectual dialogue facilitated with open-ended questions about a text. 

In short, children learn to think. The Paideia approach to Socratic seminar is designed to promote critical and creative thinking.

Paideia Seminar shares the essential characteristics of all Socratic dialogue: it is a formal thoughtful discussion, guided by questions and focused on ideas and values.However, the Paideia Seminar differs in some respects from the classical Socratic method. Paideia educators have refined classical Socratic dialogue in order to engage students and to build intellectual skills that students need to thrive in today’s society.

Focus on a text: Paideia Seminar centers on a text that is a tangible human artifact — such as a poem, a painting, a song, or a science experiment. By contrast, classical Socratic dialogue centers on issues and situations, which are usually theoretical or intangible. By focusing on a specific text, Paideia Seminar creates an entry point to engage students with more abstract ideas. Focusing on a text also creates opportunities to explore profound and influential texts within an academic discipline.

Personal questions: Paideia Seminar includes a specific sequence of questions. Classical Socratic questions are logical and analytical in nature.  The core of a Paideia Seminar relies on Socratic questions for close text-based analysis. 

Teaching speaking and listening: Whereas Socratic seminar typically refers only to a discussion, Paideia Seminars include steps to take before and after the discussion, in order to coach the speaking and listening skills. Just like reading and writing, speaking and listening are skills that must be learned — and they are essential skills for success in school and in life. For this reason, speaking and listening are included among the language arts standards in Common Core Learning.

Rules for the Seminar

Rules for the Seminar - Rules and norms must be posted and reviewed at the beginning of the seminar. The rules include:

  1. Everyone must come prepared to be an active participant
  2. Do not raise your hand
  3. Take turns speaking
  4. Speak loudly clearly
  5. Make eye contact
  6. Listen to each other
  7. Respond using each others names when appropriate

Conversational Prompts

Conversational Prompts – Conversation prompts should be posted in classrooms that provide students with a framework to have discussion. In addition, the facilitator can guide conversation by utilizing prompts such as:

  • I only noticed _____ students participate…
  • I only heard from _____ people…We need to hear from others
  • The goal today is… (for everyone to participate, etc.)
  • Remember that our/your goal is…
  • It’s okay to disagree…
  • Let’s remind ourselves of our rules…
  • Let me restate the question…
  • Does anyone have another question/comment….
  • _____ (time) is left…