“There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here…that students can and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. It’s an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.” -Deborah Meier (1955)
“What do I have to do to get an A in this class?” Every time I hear this question my heart sinks. Just imagine if this same student asked, “Mrs. Cadwell, how and why did the Athenian Democracy fall and how is this relevant to my life?” In a recent Learning Community meeting in which Harwood faculty were discussing PBGRs and PLPs, one of my colleagues blurted out,“Oh my God, I just realized I will have to teach in a whole new way.” True school transformation will be challenging for teachers and students alike; it requires a growth mindset, innovative pedagogy and a fundamental shift in student-teacher relationships.
I have been involved in teaching and learning for my entire professional life. If I have garnered anything from the past three decades in working with young people it is this: that “the one that does the work does the learning.” Students must be engaged in asking deep and meaningful questions about what they are learning, and they must have an authentic voice in our classrooms and communities.
I have recently been given an extraordinary gift: I been granted a Rowland Foundation Fellowship for the 2016- 2017 school year. My initiative is to investigate the ways that Socratic dialogue can be used at the classroom level to create the fundamental shift to student-directed learning that must be at the heart of school transformation. See my proposal here.
Socratic dialogue places students at the center of the educational process; it fundamentally shifts the dynamics of the teacher-student relationship and places ownership and initiative for learning on the student. In this pedagogy, students drive the discussion by asking deep, probing questions to investigate meaningful content, working collaboratively to search for knowledge, understanding and application.
I am committed to working with students and teachers to integrate strategies for student centered teaching and learning into classroom practice so that students and teachers develop new partnerships and students learn to participate to effectively drive their own learning. This site is designed to be a resource bank for students, teachers and administrators who wish to learn about the transformative power of Socratic dialogue as classroom pedagogy. I will continue to compile resource materials, protocols, instructional methodologies, and videos that illustrate Socratic dialogue in the classroom. Write to me on my blog to ask questions and to continue the conversation.
The following documentary, entitled “Coming to the Table: Dialogue for Classroom Transformation” highlights my work and shows how teachers can move their classrooms from teacher-directed to teacher-facilitated to student-driven classrooms. It features Harwood students learning from one another utilizing the “Harkness Table” methodology.