An observer’s notes on the Socratic method in action

Scorates talking to a man who is eagerly listening at his side.
Image source: Wikimedia
Here are my notes from the dialectic dialogue of the Socratic Seminar: An International Forum on Socratic Teaching held at the Association of Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) conference in Jacksonville, Florida in 2017.  I attended to learn more about the #Socratic method in general but also to learn how to apply it to the academic task of advising doctoral students’ dissertation writing. This is what occurred in a simulated environment with a doctoral student, her advisor, and a panel of experts. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen offered at a conference—and far few people saw it, as the panel outnumbered the attendees.  I took notes for future reference and also to share with the student who was the target for this activity.
 
Introduction by Adviser, Dr. Abbas Johari: “This is a respectful dialogue between master and student….An example would be guided questions for the learner…Panelists should not make a statement but bring her to an understanding of a concept via questioning.”
Topic of Dissertation:  The student, Cheng Miaoting, gave a brief overview of her dissertation titled,  Technology Acceptance of LMS in Postsecondary Schools in Hong Kong.
MethodologyStudent used survey and interview methods to address several variables (e.g., SES, environment, context) based on the technology acceptance model (TAM 3).
Panels’ Questions: Each expert asked the student a question while she listened. I was not always able to attribute who said what as I feverishly took notes. Please understand the missing attributions.  See link below for panelists’ names.
  1. What is the problem? Tech or culture?
  2. What are you expecting to find? Recommendation for action? The assumption is __________.
  3. What are the assumptions underlying acceptance? Why is this good? Response to facilitate learning?
  4. Which theory will you use and why?
  5. Which variables affect learning?
Dr. Michael Thomas’ statement: “Tool has no agenda as in gun law. Is it possible to argue if a bad thing?” He recommended seeing Technological Sublime (aka Machine Messiah).
Dr. Amy Bradshaw’s statement: “What is modernity with Chinese characteristics?” Deficit ideology where X fixes them, whereas X is tech, mainland Chinese are needing a fix and solution is technology.
Adviser’s Guidance to Student: He told his student to address the master’s guidance by asking following questions or to paraphrase what she had learned. She had a question about the term ‘factors’ in research.
Panel Questions continued:
6. What type of psychological adaptation will you use? Acculturation Framework? Cat mentioned Hofstede’s but panel discouraged it based on its hostility and stereotypical frame.
7. Fundamentally, what is the burning question you want to answer? The human question—why you want to do it. Solve one problem at a time.
8. How do things change in society? Need theory on societal change.
9. Why are immigrants coming to HK?
10. What are schools doing to address this? (Here is where you addressed the practical significance or human question, which was the missing piece of training for technology.)
11. Have you looked at other countries tech adaption for immigrants?
Adviser called for Debrief: The student acknowledged the need to focus study and reflect. She will reach out to other researchers to negotiate understanding, as was done today. She will talk in practical terms and not just in research methodology.
Panel Debriefed with Suggestions: 
  • Free yourself, but 1-directional.
  • What is the one thing they do not want you to talk about? That is your research questions.
  • Focus on commonality and not just differences.
  • Find ways to hear immigrants to inform study.
  • Remember the humane as well as the human.
  • Have an open mind in research design—always question research design.
  • Look at the polarity of human existence. What is up/down? In/out? What is not there? What’s obvious? Hidden? Who implemented these types of change?
  • Listen to your adviser.
  • See work by Charles Reigeluth and Carl Rogers.

Here is a link to the #AECT conference abstract and list of panel members.

Author: teacherrogers

Content developer, instructional designer, trainer, and researcher

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