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Top Student Paper - Experiential Education Division, 2011 NCA Convention - Aristotle’s Café - Speaking from Experience - Hassan Ghiassi


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Top Student Paper - Experiential Education Division, 2011 NCA Convention - Aristotle’s Café - Speaking from Experience - Hassan Ghiassi

  1. 1. Aristotle’s Café: Speaking from Experience by Hassan Ghiassi Department of Communication Studies California State University-Chico Comments and questions should be forwarded to:, 919-264-2162. Top Student Paper Experiential Education Division, 2011 NCA Convention, New Orleans, LA Abstract: It is the goal of universities to produce intelligent, well-rounded citizens. Communication departments are perfectly situated to use expertise in communication to create community. Part of getting an education is learning how to become actively involved in the system of democracy. In light of that, all routes that aid in this endeavor should be explored. The Socratic method has been around for quite some time and is used in a number of disciplines to promote critical thinking, leadership skills, and has a number of other benefits (Boghossian, 2006; Ekachai & Parkinson, 2002; Garside, 1996; Gordon, 2003; Paul & Elder, 2007; Tsui, 2002; Tucker, 2007). This study presents the results of a grounded theory analysis of a group stimulated discussion group named Aristotle’s Café that uses the Socratic method. Four core components are addressed: invitational rhetoric, the Socratic method, cultural intelligence, and critical thinking. The findings are based upon post discussion group interviews. Themes that were found to manifest during the discussion are considered and directions for future research are proposed. Keywords: Invitational rhetoric; Socratic method; cultural intelligence; critical thinking
  2. 2. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 2 The state of affairs “The essence of democracy itself is now widely taken to be deliberation, as opposed to voting, interest aggregation, constitutional rights, or even self- government” (Dryzek, 2002, p. 1). As stated by Dryzek (2002), the ability for citizens to engage in dialogue in a civilized manner is of great importance, perhaps of the greatest importance. Building upon ancient wisdom, Aristotle exclaimed, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” One can begin the process of deliberation, which begins with ideas that are in conflict, through unforced and open discussion because the institution of democracy is set in place to make that happen (Miller, 1992). To maintain a high level of participation and understanding within a democracy, it is important that deliberation be promoted. There are a number of arenas that have been established to do just that, one of them is a group stimulated discussion forum named Aristotle’s Café. Aristotle’s Café is a forum in which participants can openly discuss thoughts, feelings, and ideas about the world. Through the use of invitational rhetoric and the Socratic method, Aristotle’s Café discussions establish a safe venue to share ideas, opinions, and questions. It also serves as a place to learn through conversation and free expression (Foss & Griffin, 1995). With minimal verbal participation, a facilitator assists the group in discovering and sharing their thoughts on the topic of their choice. The initial question explored is chosen by group submissions and then a majority vote is used to narrow the question down to just one. Facilitators are
  3. 3. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 3 trained to pose questions that explore depth and complexity rather than adding extraneous input. These discussions last about one hour. Aristotle’s Cafés are currently being sponsored at three mid-sized universities around the United States. The forum uses an open style of communication. It is not a unidirectional type of communication as most lecture methods, but rather a flow of ideas and questions (Hawkins-Leon, 1998; Sattler, 1943; Schiller, 2008). While this might not be a traditional lecture, the Socratic Method has been shown to have benefits (Boghossian, 2006; Ekachai & Parkinson, 2002; Garside, 1996; Gordon, 2003; Paul & Elder, 2007; Tsui, 2002; Tucker, 2007) and thus Aristotle’s Café might be useful to supplement instruction. If the goal of the educational systems is to create well-rounded and knowledgeable citizens, it is vital to utilize all methods that will aid in this pursuit. Dialogue is important because communication is the constitutive element of social systems (Vanderstraeten, 1991). Thus, the communication involved within any interaction has the possibility to help students raise levels of cultural intelligence as well as increase the ability for students to critically think (APA, 1990; Krathwohl, 2002; Taylor, 1997; Thomas, 2006). A review of literature in concern to the format of Aristotle’s Café along with these elements will now be described in detail. Literature Review Invitational Rhetoric and the Socratic Method as bedfellows The format of Aristotle’s Café revolves around two important components, the use of invitational rhetoric to establish a place for people to give opinions freely, and the use of questions to uncover assumptions of participants. At the beginning of
  4. 4. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 4 each Aristotle’s Café session the facilitator welcomes the group and explains the value and safety of opinions, thus a review of invitational rhetoric should be pursued first. Rhetoric has historically been defined as the attempt to change others opinions, actions and beliefs (Foss & Griffen, 1995). This kind of rhetoric holds a patriarchal bias, with minority voices silenced, where persuasion is used by a rhetor to alter another person in a way that might be beneficial to the rhetor. Invitational rhetoric on the contrary is: an invitation to understanding as a means to create a relationship rooted in equality, immanent value, and self-determination. Invitational rhetoric constitutes an invitation to the audience to enter the rhetor’s world and see it as the rhetor does. In presenting a particular perspective, the invitational rhetor does not judge or denigrate others’ perspectives but is open to and tries to appreciate and validate those perspectives, even if they differ dramatically from the rhetor’s own…When this happens, rhetor and audience alike contribute to the thinking about an issue so that everyone involved gains a greater understanding of the issue in its subtlety, richness, and complexity. Ultimately, though, the result of invitational rhetoric is not just an understanding of an issue. Because of the nonhierarchical, nonjudgemental, nonadversarial framework established for the interaction, an understanding of the participants themselves occurs, an understanding that engenders appreciation, value, and a sense of equality (Foss & Griffen, 1995, p. 5). With this definition of invitational rhetoric it is reasonable to see why it can be a tool used for the good of the community (Gorsevski, 2004). At the same time these discussions are not to be void of passion; on the contrary a well-developed perspective aids in the process of invitational rhetoric (Larson, 2009). “Offering” is the term used by Foss and Griffen (1995) which they define as when, “rhetors tell what they currently know or understand; they present their vision of the world and show how it looks and works for them” (p. 7). Ultimately, “If it is possible to have
  5. 5. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 5 understanding rather than change as a fundamental rhetorical goal, then invitational rhetoric demonstrates that intention means engagement in an issue rather than persuasion” (Ryan & Natalle, 2001, p. 70). This fits in line with the use of the Socratic Method and the format of invitational rhetoric, where facilitation of group discussion should foster a feeling of value, freedom and safety for participants (Foss & Griffen, 1995; Steinert, 2004). It is important to view the components of the Socratic Method as well. Paul and Elder (2007) define the Socratic method as: disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what is known from what is not known, and to follow out logical implications of thought. The key to distinguishing it from other types of questioning is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems (p. 36). Socrates described himself as an “intellectual midwife, whose questioning delivers the thoughts of others into the light of day” (Tucker, 2007, p.81). By asking questions, it was not always necessary for Socrates to have all the right answers or to even attempt to act as if he did; instead, through discourse, truths were found as members of the group he was questioning came up with ideas and opinions of their own. He was challenging, aggressive and insightful, many times pointing out flaws in logic and argumentation either subtly or outright. Sattler (1943) describes the Socratic method as: A cooperative search for valid judgments through the use of alternate questions and answers. The discussion proceeds inductively by setting out a large number of examples and analogies that serve as a basis for the acceptance or rejection of a proposed hypothesis (p.154).
  6. 6. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 6 Contemporary scholars agree with Sattler’s statement as well (Hawkins-Leon, 1998; Schiller, 2008). Sattler explains that the process set by the participants and facilitators is highly influential to the direction of the discussion. Discussions that use the Socratic Method can be helpful to those involved if used cooperatively because of the free flow of opinions and questions. A group discussion asking for unique and diverging opinions will have a wider range of opinions and more complex perspectives on any one issue. Simply put, the forum allows for several minds to approach one issue as opposed to one person alone. This form of discussion gives participants the opportunity to gain understanding and knowledge from other students (Garside, 1996). In these instances, it is critical to have a facilitator that uses invitational rhetoric along with the Socratic method for this to be successful. Tucker (2007) believes that the Socratic Method gets students to reach logical conclusions and at the same time helps them become leaders. This is because discussions that are formatted to encourage interaction give students self- confidence in the ability to share their beliefs and opinions. Although the method can proceed deductively or inductively, depending on the circumstance, students who become leaders get familiar with both and thus can use either forms of reasoning with their own concepts (Tucker, 2007). Cultural intelligence (CQ)=(Knowledge + Mindfulness + Behavior) IQ, or intelligent quotient, has been held in high respect among academics for quite sometime now (Ang, Van Dyne, Koh, Yee Ng, Templer, Tay & Chandrasekar, 2007). Ang et al. (2007) state a number of new types of intelligence have come to
  7. 7. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 7 the forefront of scholarship, for example, practical intelligence, emotional intelligence, and specifically cultural intelligence (CQ). “Cultural intelligence involves the individual capability to adapt effectively to new cultural contexts and/or to be able to effectively bridge issues and activities between two cultures” (Connaughton & Shuffler, 2007, p. 392). While this might be true, there have been several definitions of CQ, however there is a consensus that it involves interaction between several different factors which are knowledge, mindfulness and behavior (Ang et al., 2007; Connaughton & Shuffler, 2007; Thomas, 2006; Thomas, Elron, Stahl, Ekelund, Ravlin, Cerdin, Poelmans, Brislin, Pekerti, Aycan, Maznevski, Au & Lazarova, 2008). Ang et al. (2007) describe CQ as grounded in those multiple factors and thus CQ is similar but also distinct from IQ and other forms of intelligence. In general CQ means that a person can adapt to any given situation, but even more importantly CQ allows for the shaping of a cross-cultural interaction (Thomas, 2006). With regard to CQ, this paper will specifically focus on the three factors described by Thomas (2006): knowledge, mindfulness and behavior. Knowledge. Cultural knowledge can be simply described as “knowing what culture is, how cultures vary and how culture effects behavior” (Thomas, 2006, p. 81). In other words, understanding cultural differences and how those differences shape the way in which one behaves. Cultural knowledge includes content knowledge and process knowledge (Thomas, 2006). Content knowledge creates a base for CQ by creating a foundation by understanding behavior of oneself as well as the behavior of others. This type of knowledge includes, “cultural identities, values, attitudes, and practices” (Thomas,
  8. 8. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 8 2006, p. 82). This allows for more comfortable interactions because once a person understands these elements of knowledge, they are better at predicting the attributes of the person they are communicating with. This means that a person with high content knowledge will be able to fit in with a new culture easier, and at the same time understand the logic and behaviors of that culture (Thomas, 2006). Thomas et al. (2008) explains that, “content knowledge of cultures is the foundation of cultural intelligence because it forms the basis for comprehending and decoding the behavior of others and ourselves” (p. 128). Content knowledge is paired with process knowledge, which is, “the processes through which cultural variations affect behavior” (Thomas, 2006, p. 83). An example of this would be the knowledge that Swedish men and women value moderation and neutrality as a society. In the case of a Swedish person, the content knowledge of neutrality as a value would explain why when argumentatively challenged, a Swedish person might simply agree or change the subject as to remain neutral. Without the process knowledge of how cultural differences are enacted, CQ is incomplete. This process also concerns cognitive thought because when people identify with certain cultures they hold certain paradigms to be true based on their experiences. Thomas (2006) supports this by pointing out, “cultural differences result in different cognitive scripts” (p. 83). Thus, cultural knowledge is an integral part of CQ because it allows for a foundational understanding of differences (content knowledge) as well as and understanding of processes and cognitive scripts that result from within cultures (process knowledge). Mindfulness. Mindfulness, as defined by Thomas (2006) is, “fundamentally a
  9. 9. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 9 heightened awareness of and enhanced attention to current experience or present reality” (p. 84). This is an awareness and consciousness of one’s external environment and internal state. Mindfulness also includes the process in which a person seeks multiples perspectives, which means that in that process content knowledge will be increased along the way (Thomas, 2006). When this element of CQ is highly developed it leads to an awareness of personal assumptions, ideas, and paradigms. At the same time mindfulness allows for an understanding of what the other person’s assumptions, behaviors, and world-views are. In both of these instances a person with high mindfulness remains open minded, interprets what is happening, evaluates, uses empathy, and creates new ideas based upon interactions (Thomas, 2006). A major skill of mindfulness is an understanding of one’s own thinking and behavior. This results in “the planning and monitoring of performance and…use of cognitive strategies” (Thomas, 2006, p. 86). In an article pertaining to consumer behavior, Dong and Brunel (2006) identify four aspects that are increased with mindfulness: sensitivity to one’s context or environment; openness to new information; aptitude at cognitive categorization, and; awareness of multiple perspectives in problem solving. In light of this, mindfulness helps people be evaluative and open to new situations, information and ideas while also allowing the individual to react appropriately during those instances. Mindfulness is the factor that exerts control over automatic behavior, or thoughtless behavior, thus it is the critical link that allows one to use “knowledge and effective behavior” (Thomas, 2006, p. 87).
  10. 10. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 10 Behavior. The last element to CQ as outlined by Thomas (2006) is behavior. Appropriate behavior is the product of both knowledge and mindfulness. The concept of appropriate behavior arises out of knowledge of cultural differences, open-minded interpretation and self-awareness. People with these skills generate their behaviors based on the cultural setting, creating more and more competency across a wide range of cultural situations (Thomas, 2006). Actors behave in ways that both fit with the expected behavior in the specific environment while striving for personal goals. The concepts of knowledge, mindfulness, and behavior of Thomas (2006) have been chosen because of the unique perspectives taken on how each one operates. In the case of behavior, Thomas (2006) believes that adaption must never be too extreme or else it will be perceived as insincere and thus personal goals must always be part of a person’s behavior while using mindfulness to understand a respectable middle ground. In summary, CQ can be defined as the capability to, “behave effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity” (Ang et al., 2007, p. 337). Thomas (2006) describes that the, “acquisition of CQ involves learning from social interactions“ (p. 89). CQ overall as well as the individual elements of knowledge, mindfulness and behavior can be further developed in this way; with each being used in a specific way to navigate how one might effectively behave in given situations. Thomas (2006) explains that the best way to increase CQ is by, “learning from social experience” as well as “paying attention to and appreciating critical differences in culture and background between oneself and others” (p. 90). In the pursuit of how to develop CQ, experiential learning is specifically useful (Thomas,
  11. 11. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 11 2006). Experiential learning allows a person to move through the process of reacting, recognizing, accommodating, assimilating, and proactively engaging when it comes to cultural behaviors, thus developing each of the components of CQ during that process (Thomas, 2006). To critically think or not to critically think? For over three decades, educational institutions have continued the discussion on critical thinking (McPeck, 1981; McPeck, 1990; Meyers, 1986; Gardiner, 2000; Green & Klug, 1990). In a 1999 survey sponsored by the Public Relation Society of America (PRSA) and the National Communication Association (NCA), it was found that critical thinking skills were one of the most sought after qualities in entry-level public relation professionals (Ekachai & Parkinson, 2002). The same can be said for business, nursing, environmental health, amongst other professions (Jin, Bierma, & Broadbear, 2004; Melles, 2009; Moody, Stewart, & Bolt- Lee, 2002). Critical thinking is a skill that allows an individual to gain a competitive edge while job hunting. It creates better decision-makers who can evaluate and analyze to make the best choice in any given situation. Interestingly enough a study done by Keely (1992) found that across the board, from college freshmen to college seniors, critical thinking ability was low and poor. A current criticism voiced by Lujan and DiCarlo (2006) states that college curriculums are overloaded with content, forcing teachers to resort to lecturing information that the students already know, thus leading to memorization and no increase in critical thinking ability, or any deeper understanding of the information. Tsui (2002) believes that the educational system might do better to devote more
  12. 12. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 12 time to teaching students how to think rather than simply recall information. This would help better prepare individuals for real world situations rather than just memorizing something on an exam that they can easily forget soon after. Tsui’s (2002) reasoning is this: Higher-order cognitive skills, such as the ability to think critically, are invaluable to students’ futures; they prepare individuals to tackle a multitude of challenges that they are likely to face in their personal lives, careers, and duties as responsible citizens. Moreover, by instilling critical thinking in students we groom individuals to become independent lifelong learners— thus fulfilling one of the long-term goals of the educational enterprise (p. 740). Since critical thinking plays such an important role for success educationally as well as professionally it will now be explained in more detail. Critical thinking revealed. Most people have an understanding of what thinking is, but critical thinking has been a term that has undergone much deliberation. However, there are some key elements that have been agreed on over the years. These elements can be explored through the Bloom’s taxonomy and the American Philosophical Association’s (APA) definition. Beginning with the revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy from Krathwohl (2002), it is noticed that levels of thinking are broken down into lower-level and higher-level thinking skill categories. From lowest skill level, moving to higher skill levels there are six levels: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Remembering involves recollection or duplication, and is demonstrated in answering a question such as “When was President Clinton in office?” Understanding lays a step above with the student having the ability to describe or
  13. 13. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 13 paraphrase information. Understanding is a notable grasp of information and thinking skills, as do all the different steps within the taxonomy. When a student can use information in a different way through application, he or she has reached the last plateau in the lower-level thinking skill ranking. Applying concerns solving, employing, demonstrating, illustrating, and writing which shows a mastering of remembering and understanding and one practical step further. An example of this might be persons working as apprentice baker; they do not necessarily know the best recipe but they can follow what has been taught to them thus far and duplicate the head chef’s recipe for a perfect croissant (Krathwohl, 2002). Analyzing information means that the student has the ability to compare, examine, question and test the information being presented. This means that the student should have the ability to see the different parts of a theory being taught and to distinguish how they work together to create the idea. This is the beginning level in the higher-level thinking skill section because it is when students start to question and criticize the information being presented instead of simply accepting it. The fifth level, evaluating, means that the student has the ability to argue, defend, evaluate and justify information. This level not only asks that students criticize but also to make a stand by using argumentation skills. An example of a question at this level might be, “What is your opinion of the Clinton administration?” The highest level on the revised Bloom’s taxonomy is creating. Creating involves designing, developing, formulating, and constructing completely new information, products, or theories. Creating involves a mastery of all five levels previously discussed and not only synthesizes, but more importantly, produces (Krathwohl, 2002).
  14. 14. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 14 In 1990, the APA came to an agreement concerning the definition of critical thinking as follows: We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based (APA, 1990, p. 3). The common theme of interpretation, analysis, and evaluation used with supporting information emerges in both Bloom’s Taxonomy and the APA definition of critical thinking. Paul and Elder (2008) also state that, “…critical thinking naturally generates questions” (p. 34). This is helpful to the format of Aristotle’s Café both for the participants and for the facilitator because it leads to deeper discussions. After the review of literature, the format of Aristotle’s Café has been examined as has cultural intelligence and critical thinking. To further understand what Aristotle’s Café facilitates through dialogue, the following research questions are posed: RQ1: How does Aristotle’s Café facilitate cultural intelligence? RQ2: How does Aristotle’s Café facilitate critical thinking? Methods This study utilized qualitative methods because the researcher wanted to gather rich information on the influences of Aristotle’s Café relating to cultural intelligence and critical thinking. For this reason, group interviews were held directly after three different sessions with the discussion group.
  15. 15. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 15 Sampling As appropriate with qualitative research, post group interviews were held with participants who signed a consent form (see Appendix B). The interviewees were recruited from the people who had just participated in an Aristotle’s Cafe. These subjects ranged in age from 18 and older. The criteria for being part of the study were that subjects had to meet the minimum age requirement and had to be currently taking classes at any level of education. Demographics of the participants, separated by date, can be seen in Table 1. Table 1 Male Female Freshmen Sophomore Juniors Seniors Age 4/20/10 2 5 3 1 2 1 18,18,19, 20,24,46 4/27/10 2 1 3 0 0 0 18,18,18 5/4/10 5 0 3 1 1 0 18,19,20, 20 Totals 9 6 9 2 3 1 18-46 Data Gathering After a session of Aristotle’s Café, group interviews (see Appendix A) were conducted pertaining to what the participants thought of and/or said during the session. All interviews were audio recorded and later transcribed. The interviews lasted approximately 20-30 minutes. Names, gender, and age were not specified in the transcribing as to allow for the safety and anonymity of the participants.
  16. 16. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 16 Data Analysis Grounded theory was used to analyze the transcribed interviews and is acceptable as a method to use in qualitative research (Keyton, 2006). The approach started with 266 codes (see Appendix C), which were then collapsed into 11 categories, and then into 4 themes. Since each of the themes that arose involves the act of communication they are not mutually exclusive. Findings RQ1. Cultural intelligence was the focus of RQ1 and was the most frequent theme of the group interviews, with a frequency of 101, and are broken down into knowledge, mindfulness and behavior (Thomas, 2006). Knowledge included both content knowledge and process knowledge. This category manifested itself 36 times; one quotation that encompasses both areas of knowledge was gathered on May 27th, 2010: I think that was the whole thing about, everyone just kind of has their own opinion about life in general and it might be because they were raised different. Or it might be, because everyone does have their own opinion no matter how you’re raised you’re going to end up with your different opinion and go a different direction in life This remark both addresses content knowledge of cultural identities, how a person is raised, and also process knowledge of how that person behaves throughout life. Knowledge is also connected to mindfulness and behavior. Mindfulness was the most frequently represented category with 57 occurrences. This category was communicated in many ways such as self-reflection, open-mindedness, empathy, and a number of other ways outlined by Thomas (2006). When asked if there were any reflections as to why the participants
  17. 17. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 17 interacted in certain ways during the discussion one gave this statement, “Over the last year or so I have developed a confrontational personality and have learned to use it, so I feel that it might have not been so good for other people sometimes.” (4/21/10). This shows a number of personal as well as cultural reflections. The student both knows the behavior might be detrimental to others and also what he/she is doing. As discussed in the literature review, mindfulness is a component of cultural intelligence that links knowledge to behavior. Behavior was minimally represented and was specifically defined as appropriate behavior while still striving for personal goals (Thomas, 2006). The frequency was eight occurrences, with a humorous tone in some cases, “I was pretty tame, because I was a guest. Because I’m visiting my daughter and here with her roommate and stuff, I could be more verbal, I didn’t want to make a bad rep here in Chico. Group laughter” (4/21/10). Knowledge and mindfulness both aided in creating the participants well-received remark which considered appropriate behavior within the context of the discussion environment. Therefore, findings indicate that engagement of knowledge, mindfulness and behavior are ways that Aristotle’s Café facilitates cultural intelligence. Thus RQ1 was properly addressed through the group interview process. RQ2. Critical thinking was found 51 times and consisted of higher level thinking skills as well as simple thinking. Higher level thinking skills were defined as analyzing, evaluating and creating (Krathwohl, 2002) and occurred 26 times. “I listened to people’s opinions and developed my own opinions against their opinions” (4/27/10). This statement involves comparison, analyzing, and
  18. 18. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 18 evaluating, but also creation. The participant develops something new based on what is being discussed. Critical thinking pertains to participants using thought or rational judgment (Soanes & Stevenson, 2004) and manifested itself 25 times. One participant commented on the educational value of the discussion, “I feel more educated coming out of this because I feel like I got to hear more sides to every story…” (5/4/10). The participant expresses a diversity of opinions that he/she was able to think about rationally. In regard to RQ2 Aristotle’s Café facilitates critical thinking by allowing participants to use higher level thinking skills (Krawthol, 2002) as well as an opportunity to simply think. Emergent Themes. Two themes emerged throughout the course of the study, one was safe space/invitational rhetoric (SI) and the other was practice. SI was as frequent as critical thinking with 51 occurrences. Practice was not nearly as strong with only 25 incidents but both should still be explained in more detail. The theme of a safe space or a reflection of invitational rhetoric (SI) was emergent, as there were absolutely no interview questions that were designed to garner this sort of information. The majority of these remarks were in answer to the question “What did you like? Why?” The three categories that supported this theme were safety, liking/identification and personal detachment. Safety is the feeling of freedom in expression of oneself without a fear of negative consequences. “I thought you had a really respectful format, the way we could talk with each other and share ideas, a safe feeling,” was a statement that was reiterated in a number of ways throughout the group interviews. Phrases such as “I
  19. 19. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 19 feel safe”, “the focal point of this group is empathy”, “it’s more accepting”, and “a great chance to talk to other people” ranged across all three days of group interviews. The setting of safety facilitated both enjoyment and reasoning within the participants. Liking/identification was found as a category because of the enjoyment or personal identification with the format of the discussion group. The statement, “I think this should be a requirement, it should be put into the class” was made by a participant and supported by all others within the group on May 4th, 2010. Others focused on specific details, such as “I thought it was a good strong group of people”, “I hear a lot of good things”, “I love challenges”, or “good topic.” The likeability of the format also led to identification with the group. Some participants spoke in ways that reflected the atmosphere and format of the group itself, actually expressing elements of invitational rhetoric. One participant commented on the forum as, “proof to people that say online learning is going to be the norm, we need this kind of interaction.” That statement was followed by a clamoring of “yes” and “thank you.” A more concise example of the plurality of opinions that invitational rhetoric supports can be found in a statement by a participant interested in teaching, “I want to be a teacher because I want to, not because I think there is anything great about me being a teacher, I just want everything that I’ve learned, I want to share with as many people as possible. Even if they don’t agree, just so they know.” The participant expresses a non-hierarchal approach to teaching in the same way that invitational rhetoric supports that same approach to discussion (Foss & Griffen,
  20. 20. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 20 1995). The safety and identification of the format then lead to a logical evaluation of information by participants. The personal detachment category is described by a reaction based on logic as opposed to emotion. Participants expressed an ability to be critiqued and give critique in a way that did not involve hurt feelings or embarrassment. For example, one participant stated, “I really enjoyed the communication, the back and forth between people. It’s always fun to like get your ideas out there and then hear what other people have to say on the subject. You know, like maybe they bring up things you’ve never thought of before, I like that.” As opposed to feeling challenged or upset, this participant had detached emotions when opinions given were questioned or argued against. “I think maybe just to throw out your opinion just because everyone wasn’t trying to just agree with each other,” is another example. The participant felt that disagreement was occurring but had no hesitation in the sharing of his/her opinion. SI contained categories of safety, identification and personal detachment that led to an environment where participants could practice. The theme of practice was categorized into class extension and personal practice. Class extension represented when participants named Aristotle’s Café as an outlet for classroom concepts or a place to explore what they could not in the classroom. One student explained, “I love school, but this just fills another area where you can ask the questions that you don’t get to ask in classes” (4/21/10). Aristotle’s Café was a place for some people to practice in order to achieve personal goals, thus this occurrence was identified as personal practice.
  21. 21. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 21 One illustration happened during a back and forth friendly conversation between the group members during the interview where evaluation of ideas was brought up. The group agreed that they liked the idea that people were not so easily persuaded. Upon that agreement one member stated to the other, “Not your utopian world of [Name] land. laughter” (4/20/10). In response to this the participant replied, “Yeah, people don’t just believe me, I learn how to make them believe me laughs” (4/20/10). This is an example of practice to later achieve personal goals through the use of persuasion, but there were also instances of personal growth: And I mean, I come to these meetings with my beliefs in a sense checked at the door, I mean I bring them in here to make them available for discussion but nobody knows the fallibility of myself more than myself, and I, when people say something I’m like, okay how would this work, I genuinely consider it as a valid possibility. And I don’t know if I’d get that opportunity if I wasn’t in a group like this where I feel safe enough to do that (4/20/10). This example is a good example of personal detachment, thinking, liking, and safety as well as personal practice and is a good indication of how many of the categories work in congruence with one another. In particular, the format allows the quoted participant to feel safe enough to test his beliefs in a group environment. In summary, four themes have been derived from 266 codes and 11 categories intended to represent what was communicated during group interviews. Themes were not mutually exclusive and were not intended to be mutually exclusive, some themes more strongly related to one another than others but all were connected in some way.
  22. 22. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 22 Discussion After synthesizing this qualitative data, the ability for Aristotle’s Café to facilitate cultural intelligence as well as critical thinking in a safe environment where people can practice certain skills seems evident. A discussion of the particular way in which those elements occur will be described by using the metaphor of a ship. First starting with the format, and then addressing implications of that format on cultural intelligence and critical thinking. The interviews conducted after the three sessions demonstrate that the feeling of safety was present. This was reflected by the participants’ feelings of freedom of expression, the friendly atmosphere and the ability to think rationally about challenged ideas. The openness of the group seemed in many cases to be in contrast to the regular discussions participants were used to engaging in. “I really enjoyed the communication, the back and forth between people, it’s always fun to like get your ideas out there and hear what other people have to say on the subject…” (4/21/10), was a stance that most of the participants agreed with. The safe environment made participants calm and open to suggestions, because of that mindset the elements of cultural intelligence and critical thinking could both be expanded. Looking at the data, participants communicated no fear of attack or humiliation and at the same time could be challenged and proved wrong without getting upset. The discussions were not graded or evaluated and neither were the participants in their answers. The enjoyment that no right or wrong answer existed came up several times across all interviews. The environment created by
  23. 23. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 23 invitational rhetoric was like an unsinkable ship that participants were able to ride along on. There was no determined destination, so they had no fear of travelling in the wrong direction and they had no one evaluating their actions along the way. Therefore, when something interesting came up participants were able to inspect it individually but also as a group. This metaphor can be extended to cultural intelligence because the people on the ship are not being evaluated or in direct competition with one another, thus they can seek out opposing views and even conceded arguments without “losing.” This also enhances critical thinking because of the fact that creation and comparison happen as the people on the ship take in different viewpoints and opinions. In this instance, critical thinking and cultural intelligence enhance one another because both are cognitive and communicative processes. The final piece about practicing skills occurs simply because people are in an environment in which they are able to do so and have the time to do so. In the end, Aristotle’s Café facilitates the increase of cultural intelligence and critical thinking by establishing invitational rhetoric and becoming a safe vessel for the participants. Conclusions The group stimulated discussion forum, Aristotle’s Café, is successful at facilitating cultural intelligence and critical thinking. However, there are some limitations that should be illustrated. One; the researcher was present during the discussion as well as the interview process and participants could have been influenced to respond in certain ways because of this. To minimize this problem ambiguous information was given as to what the study was exploring. The second
  24. 24. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 24 limitation is that those who participated in the post session interview are most likely the individuals that enjoyed the session the most. This, along with group pressure, could have led to a lack of negative comments about the session and format. A way to minimize this issue in the future might be to offer monetary or some kind of reward incentive to encourage participation in the interview afterward. For the purpose of this study that was not an option. With these limitations aside the findings of this study and suggestions for future research will be addressed. The utility of Aristotle’s Café found within this study should be taken into consideration as educators continuously strive to create well-rounded students. As outlined in the literature review: cultural intelligence, critical thinking, the Socratic Method, and invitational rhetoric have the ability to meet this goal. This type of discussion format is not costly, nor time consuming to establish, and frankly it is not a new idea, just a good one. While the economy is dwindling and professors still want to create active democratic participants this forum can be used to supplement classroom education and give students a place to practice necessary skills. To further explore the merits of a forum such as Aristotle’s Café research should focus on elements of invitational rhetoric and a space for practice, as both were unexpected and emergent themes. Future research that focuses on data collected during the actual session would also be highly insightful and useful information.
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  28. 28. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 28 Steinert, Y. (2004). Student perceptions of effective small group teaching. Medical Education, 38(3), 286-293. Thomas, D. C. (2006). Domain and development of cultural intelligence: The importance of mindfulness. Group & Organizational Management, 31(1), 78-99. doi:10.1177/1059601105275266 Thomas, D. C., Elron, E., Stahl, G., Ekelund, B. Z., Ravlin, E. C., Cerdin, J., Poelmans, S., Brislin, R., Pekerti, A., Aycan, Z., Maznevski, M., Au, K., and Lazarova, M. B. (2008). Cultural intelligence: Domain and assessment. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 8(2), 123-143. doi:10.1177/1470595808091787 Tsui, L. (2002). Fostering critical thinking through effective pedagogy: Evidence from four institutional case studies. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(6), 740- 763. Tucker, M. A. (2007). Leadership by the Socratic method. Air and Space Power Journal, 21(2), 80-87. Vanderstraeten, R. (2001). The autonomy of communication and the structure of education. Educational Studies, 27(4), 381-391.
  29. 29. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 29 Appendix A Interviewees The interviewees will come from the people that participate in Aristotle’s Cafe. These subjects will range in age from 18 and older. The criteria for being part of the study are those subjects who meet the age requirement and are currently taking classes at any level of education. Objectives Each person will be asked to reflect upon his or her experience of participating during Aristotle’s Café. The purpose of this will be to discover if he or she: • Brought in any information from class • Pursued information that was not allowed to be pursued in class • Felt empowered as a self directed learner Data Gathering All interviews will be recorded and later transcribed. Interview climate Lack of time will be the largest problem during the interview process. Participants will have already been speaking for an hour in a discussion group and then an interview lasting twenty minutes might conflict with a class he or she may have to attend or the subject might be worn out and not very interested in talking. As the researcher I do find it important to hold the interviews quickly after the discussion groups because it will be more fresh in the mind of the interviewees. Rationale and Organization To elicit information on democratic learning and Aristotle’s Café I will attempt to ask questions that allow for emergent data to present itself. This means that I will attempt to ask thoughtful and open-ended questions that lead participants to think deeply about the event. Pre-Interview Factors I will establish a good relationship with the participants of Aristotle’s Café, as many of them know me well already but have yet to know what my research is pertaining to. I will also move into a smaller, conference type room for the interview process, as I believe it might help to change the normal setting to help the interviewees reflect and give more honest answers.
  30. 30. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 30 Interview Concerns Many of the participants show loyalty to me as well as the concept of Aristotle’s Café, I worry that they might attempt to understand what I might be looking for instead of giving honest answers. I will attempt to correct this error by using people who do not come regularly for the interview as well as making it explicitly clear that honestly is the best way to help me with my research. Interview Opening for face to face Hi (interviewee), First as you know I am a communication student from CSU Chico doing an assignment for a class in human communication research. Second, I want to assure that any information you give to me will be shared only with my instructor Dr. Hamel. Everything you say is held in strict confidence. This shouldn’t take more than 20 painless minutes of your time. Let me tell you what kind of questions I will be asking. This will all be based upon what you thought of and or said during Aristotle’s Café. I hope that you can give me some honest and open insight. Does this sound good? (Pause) Lets get started. Body • Tell me about your experience today in Aristotle’s Café o What did you like? Why? o What didn’t you like? Why o What were your expectations for the café? o Were those expectations met? Topic: Cultural Intelligence • Did you consider alternative positions that you would have otherwise not have been exposed to? Why or why not? • Was part of your interest in participating in Aristotle’s Café related to interacting with people that were from different backgrounds? Why or why not? • Did you find Today’s experience in Aristotle’s Café to be helpful when understanding why people have the opinions they have? Why or why not? • Do you have any self-reflections of why you might have interacted in a certain way? Topic: Self Directed learning • Did you enjoy taking part in Aristotle’s Café, if so or if not, why?
  31. 31. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 31 • What did you learn today, if anything? Are you interested in taking part in it again? • Do you believe it is your responsibility to pursue learning? If so, in what ways do you seek to enhance your knowledge, or engage in learning outside of the university? • While at Aristotle’s Café do you find yourself bringing in material from the classroom or elsewhere? • Do you think this motivated you intellectually to learn more about certain issues? Topic: Critical Thinking • Did you find yourself evaluating what was being said? • Did you find yourself arguing or defending things that were discussed? • Did you come up with new ideas or new ways of thinking during the discussion? • Do you think differently after this event and how? Closing It is looking like our time has come to an end (interviewee’s name). Lastly though is there anything you would like to add that we may have missed in the course of this interview? I want to thank you for talking to me, and if I need to do some follow up on this interview would you mind if I contacted you through phone or e-mail? Great! Goodbye.
  32. 32. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 32 Appendix B Informed Consent to Participate in a Research Study College of Communication California State University, Chico 400 West First Street Chico, CA 95929 Title of Research: Aristotle’s Café and Higher Education Name of Primary Researcher: Seyed Hassan Ghiassi Phone Number of Primary Researcher: (919)-264-2162 E-mail of Primary Researcher: A. PURPOSE AND BACKGROUND I, Seyed Hassan Ghiassi a graduate student in research Communication Studies is conducting research on Aristotle’s Café under the supervision of Dr. Stephanie Hamel, in the department of Communication studies at CSU, Chico. The purpose of recording this session is to examine the dialogue and how it affects learning. B. PROCEDURES If I agree to participate in this research study, the following will occur: 1. I will be asked to participate in a recorded (audio) Aristotle’s Café 2. I will be asked if I would like to volunteer for an interview (Ranging about 20 minutes). 3. I will also be asked my age, gender, and academic year (Freshmen, sophomore, etc.) C. CONFIDENTIALITY 1. There are no known foreseeable risks or discomforts involved in participating in this study. 2. The records from this study will be kept as confidential as possible. No individual identities will be used in any reports or publications resulting from the study. All tapes, transcripts and summaries will be given codes and stored separately from any names or other direct identification of participants. Research information will be kept in locked files at all times. Only research personnel will have access to the files and the audio tapes and only those with an essential need to see names will have access to that particular file. After the study is completed and all data has been transcribed from the tapes, the tapes will be held until the graduation of Seyed Hassan Ghiassi and then destroyed.
  33. 33. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 33 Title of Research: Aristotle’s Café and Higher Education Name of Primary Researcher: Seyed Hassan Ghiassi D. DIRECT BENEFITS There will be no direct benefit to me from participating in this research study E. QUESTIONS I have spoken with Seyed Hassan Ghiassi about this study and have had my questions answered. If I have any further questions about the study, I can contact Seyed Hassan Ghiassi by calling (919)264-2162 or write to him at I. CONSENT I have been given a copy of this consent form to keep. PARTICIPATION IN RESEARCH STUDY IS VOLUNTARY. I am free to decline to participate in this research study, or I may withdraw my participation at any point without penalty. My decision whether or not to participate in this research study will have no influence on my present or future status at CSU- Chico. Signature ________________________________ Date ________________ Research Participant Signature ________________________________ Date ________________ Researcher Age: ______ Gender: Male Female Academic Year: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
  34. 34. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 34 Appendix C 1. Satisfaction 2. Enjoyment 3. Ideas 4. Acceptance 5. Different 6. Eye opening 7. Respectful 8. Sharing 9. Safety 10. Ability 11. Thought 12. Thinking 13. Discourse 14. Civility 15. Culture 16. Wonderful 17. Opportunity 18. Questioning 19. Dissent 20. Beliefs 21. Relevant 22. Discussion 23. Feelings 24. Cognitive dissonance 25. Not caring 26. Caring 27. Understanding 28. Liking 29. Uncomfortable 30. Knowing 31. Appropriate 32. Prediction 33. Reading body language 34. Conflict 35. Humor 36. Personality 37. Personal issues 38. Self-reflection 39. Consideration 40. Empowerment 41. Support-of group as “a strong group of people” 42. Support of Aristotle’s café 43. Identification with Aristotle’s café 44. Surprise 45. Restored faith 46. Intelligence 47. No tension 48. Acceptance 49. Proper reactions 50. Comparison 51. No right or wrong 52. Shades of right 53. Empathy 54. Learning 55. Perspectives 56. Passion 57. Insight 58. Enrichment 59. Growth-of AC 60. Accessible 61. Challenge 62. Change 63. Acknowledgement 64. Listening 65. Annoyed-at those who don’t act appropriately 66. Frustrating 67. Self-Abstraction-I leave my opinions checked at the door 68. Not taken personally 69. Genuine 70. Self-improvement 71. Sincerity 72. Compliance to AC 73. Agreement 74. Relieve 75. Appreciation 76. Stagnant-in other places 77. Dissent 78. Opinion 79. Responsibility-must explain 80. Claims 81. Helpful 82. Improvement 83. Answers
  35. 35. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 35 84. Questions 85. Applicability of knowledge-as a psychology major I can read body language 86. Hearing 87. Seeing 88. Physical senses 89. Bashing of alternative methods 90. Open minded 91. Solidification 92. Promote 93. Beneficial 94. Face-to-face 95. Value 96. Freedom 97. Expression 98. Politically correct 99. Cordially 100. Representation 101. Acknowledgement 102. Reasoning 103. Rapid 104. Process 105. Unknowing 106. Self-disclosure 107. Relief 108. Appreciation 109. Truth seeking 110. Self-realization 111. Instability 112. Change 113. Socially acceptable 114. Evolution 115. Task 116. Responsibility 117. Morals 118. Choice 119. Duty 120. Dissemination 121. Extension of class 122. Empowerment 123. Superiority 124. Course knowledge 125. Throwing it out there 126. Emotional investment/or lack there of 127. Playfulness 128. Separation of facts and opinions 129. Personal 130. Expansion 131. Discuss 132. Peace 133. Opposition 134. Neutrality 135. Insufficient 136. Thoughts to words 137. Connectiveness 138. Awareness 139. Enlightenment 140. Formation 141. Solidification 142. Communication 143. Expression 144. Revelation 145. New 146. Directed 147. Path 148. Interest 149. Hope 150. Critical thinking 151. Utility 152. Tools 153. Making sense 154. Re-energizing 155. Not apathetic 156. Persuasion 157. Delighted 158. Smartness 159. Intelligence 160. Reinforcement 161. Self-interest 162. Outside activity 163. Fitting 164. More information 165. Cool 166. Excited 167. Realization 168. Listening 169. Differences 170. Diversity 171. Cultural understanding
  36. 36. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 36 172. Experiences 173. Outcomes 174. Community awareness 175. Self-disclosure 176. Unsatisfied 177. Encouragement 178. Throw out your opinion 179. Unemotional 180. Self-abstraction 181. Anxiety 182. Nervousness 183. Viewpoints 184. Outside of class 185. Pursuit 186. Support 187. Endorsement 188. Identification 189. Want 190. Extra 191. Hobbies 192. Guidance 193. Failure 194. Success 195. Confusion 196. Not aware 197. Hard to figure out 198. Life crisis 199. Development 200. Comparison 201. Contrast 202. Casual 203. Stance 204. Specific 205. See the other side 206. Nice 207. Rare 208. Opening 209. Motivation 210. Misunderstanding 211. Status quo 212. Advice 213. Expectations- (awkward) 214. Surprise 215. Short time 216. Impressed 217. Conversation flow 218. Courtesy 219. Manners 220. Kindness 221. Ambiguousness 222. Not right or wrong 223. Low key 224. Community 225. Encouragement 226. Advice 227. More 228. Joking 229. Expert knowledge 230. Conversation flow 231. Problems 232. Unexpected 233. Format 234. Hard to communication 235. Difficulty 236. Deep 237. Exposure 238. Civility 239. Creating 240. Sameness 241. Self-disclosure 242. Helping 243. THROWING KNOWLEDGE AGAIN 244. Outlet 245. Mindset 246. Dependent 247. Relative 248. New ways of approaching 249. Love 250. Passion 251. Pride 252. Identification with AC 253. Absorption 254. Connections 255. Linking 256. Associations 257. Patience 258. Validity 259. Purposeful 260. Burden
  37. 37. ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 37 261. Altruistic 262. Opportunity 263. Too uncontroversial 264. Endorsement 265. Support 266. Liking