This week, we looked at various articles on facilitating book clubs and Socratic seminars. The articles predominantly featured book clubs as a public library concept and Socratic seminars as a school concept.
The book club articles gave great ideas of what to think about when planning a book club in this day and age: try thematic book discussions, utilize digital environments , link readers to new books afterward. One thing that stood out from both readings is that book clubs serve two big purposes in public library communities. They serve as great publicity– attracting people into the library space and encouraging users to utilize library materials. They also serve as a way to achieve some of the larger missions of public libraries: to engage patrons in lifelong learning and to create a community of more active thinkers.
The articles related to Socratic seminars took the ideas of book clubs one step further and explained the process of facilitating meaningful dialogue and discussion. The basic idea of a Socratic seminar is to go beyond the whowhatwhenwhere’s and promote why questions– questions without real answers that promote inquiry. A facilitator chooses the reading and asks an introductory question, and lets the students take charge of their own conversation.
The authors of these articles both brought up different yet significant reasons for utilizing Socratic seminars. Tredway explained the ways in which Socratic seminars can contribute to character development. This is an area that I really feel like schools and libraries can play an important role, however, as public institutions, we tend to shy away from moral issues due to their very personal nature. I don’t think that character development needs to be didactic or preachy, though. I agree that the Socratic seminar construct allows for students to openly practice putting their personal moral codes to the test in a public forum, and this should be highly encouraged.
I was fascinated by the idea of having students observe discussion techniques by using the inner/outer circle model from Metzger’s article. I have heard this technique referred to as Fishbowl classrooms. I think that discussion skills are the most important things to learn in order to participate in group learning, and I wish that these skills were more emphasized at an earlier point in one’s academic career. I got through high school without making any real contributions to classroom learning, but once I went to college, our small class sizes meant we HAD to talk. The majority of my cohorts (along with myself) found it difficult to maintain discussion without significant support from our professors, and it took me a while to get to a point where I felt comfortable adding my input to wider discussions. Like I talked about in my last post, contribution is going to become the new standard for learning. What can you bring to the material? I think techniques like this are absolutely crucial to training a generation of contributors.