Using the Socratic Method to Change Your LENS

Using the Socratic Method to Change Your LENS

Tracy Rundstrom Williams, Mikaela G. Zimmerman
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7172-9.ch002
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Helping students understand, empathize, and collaborate across differences is an essential part of education. Understanding new perspectives enriches people socially, by providing ways to connect with others; cognitively, by offering new ways of thinking; and emotionally, by building empathy. As communities become more diverse and needs for inclusion are at the forefront, understanding others' views and experiences is an increasingly valuable skillset. However, without exploring one's own thinking patterns, individuals may reflexively judge different ways of thinking. Therefore, teachers and students both need guidance to challenge unconscious assumptions and biases. This chapter will present a Socratic tool, Change Your LENS, to guide the process of examining assumptions, identifying influences on one's thinking, and actively exploring new perspectives. Both theoretical foundations and practical information for implementation will be discussed with a focus on how to use the tool to understand differences and challenge long-held assumptions.
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Socratic Inquiry refers to a method of dialogic facilitation employing questions and reflections for purposes of exploration and critical thinking rather than objective education and agenda (Paul & Binker, 1990); the goal is to allow participants to lead themselves and their peers to places of new or broadened understanding of each other’s viewpoints. This methodology’s open and exploratory nature lends itself to many spectrums of usage, among which is the broad world of teaching—one of unrivaled importance and responsibility in shaping young minds.

The Socratic Method focuses mostly on allowing participants to explore concepts openly without a formal agenda; however, crucial parts of the Socratic process can be implemented even in classrooms with more specific goals. For example, classes whose objectives are text analysis or interpretation could benefit from the implementation of the Socratic Method without much curricular change. Educators can also utilize the Socratic Method to teach material which is more focused recall or memorization (such as dates, names, or methodological rules in math or science) old subjects in new ways. For instance, science classes with labs may present methodological instructions to complete an assignment and illustrate a scientific concept, but with a Socratic approach, teachers give students a worksheet with the goal of the lab and all necessary resources for successful execution, and facilitate a peer discussion of how to best achieve the experiment’s desired outcome. The hallmarks of Socratic Methodology, openness to discussion, reflection, and peer-led process, have potential to inform a more holistic way of approaching problem solving and cooperation.

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