Critical Thinking, Socratic Seminars, and the College Classroom

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Handbook of Research on Advancing Critical Thinking in Higher Education


In many college classrooms, the requirement that students engage in critical thinking is missing. Students have become point gatherers and not thinkers. The Socratic Seminar, derived from the teaching techniques of Socrates, is a proven method to increase the critical thinking in class, and out. This structured discussion is not a debate. This chapter includes a description of, the purpose for, and successful strategies for conducting a Socratic Seminar, based on the researcher's experiences. The use of a foundational reading grounds the discussion on a common reference point. The purpose of the seminar is to improve the quality of discussion by having the students be more precise in their questions and answers. Questioning clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, and breadth of statements forces graduate students to move past the shallow parts of discussion to areas which more fully explore a topic. Graduate level work requires this depth of understanding and this method improves their ability for in-depth discussion.



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