Top Student Paper - Experiential Education Division, 2011 NCA Convention - Aristotle’s Café - Speaking from Experience - Hassan Ghiassi
Aristotle’s Café: Speaking from Experience
Department of Communication Studies
California State University-Chico
Comments and questions should be forwarded to:
Top Student Paper
Experiential Education Division,
2011 NCA Convention, New Orleans, LA
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
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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
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
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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.
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
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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
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
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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).
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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
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
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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,
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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
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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
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).
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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,
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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
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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.
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
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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).
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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.
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
RQ1: How does Aristotle’s Café facilitate cultural intelligence?
RQ2: How does Aristotle’s Café facilitate critical thinking?
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.
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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.
Male Female Freshmen Sophomore Juniors Seniors Age
4/20/10 2 5 3 1 2 1 18,18,19,
4/27/10 2 1 3 0 0 0 18,18,18
5/4/10 5 0 3 1 1 0 18,19,20,
Totals 9 6 9 2 3 1 18-46
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.
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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.
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
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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
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
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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
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,
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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.
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
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.
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 22
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
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
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
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
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
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
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 25
Ang, S., Van Dyne, L., Koh, C. K. S., Ng, K.Y., Templer, K. J., Tay, C., & Chandrasekar, N.
A. (2007). The measurement of cultural intelligence: Effects on cultural
judgment and decision making, cultural adaptation, and task performance.
Management and Organization Review, 3(3), 335-371.
American Philosophical Association. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert
consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. The Delphi
Report" Millbrae: The California Academic Press.
Boghossian, Peter (2006). Socratic pedagogy, critical thinking, and inmate
education. The Journal of Correctional Education, 57(1), 43-63.
Connaughton, S. L., and Shuffler, M. (2007). Multinational and multicultural
distributed teams: A review and future agenda. Small Group Research, 38(3),
Dong, W. and Brunel, F. F. (2006). The role of mindfulness in consumer behavior.
Advances in Consumer Research, 33, 276-277.
Dryzek, J. S. (2002). Deliberative democracy and beyond: Liberals, critics,
contestations. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Ekachai, D. and Parkinson, M. G. (2002). The Socratic method in the introductory PR
course: An alternative pedagogy. Public Relations Review, 28, 167-174.
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into
Practice, 41(4), 212-218.
Gardiner, L.F. (1998). Why we must change: The research evidence. Thought and
Action: The NEA Higher Education Journal, 14(1), 71-88.
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 26
Garside, C. (1996). Look Who’s Talking: A comparison of lecture and group
discussion teaching strategies in developing critical thinking skills.
Communication Education, 45(3), 213-227.
Gordon, L. A. (2003). Is the Socratic method illegal? The American Surgeon, 69(2),
Gorsevski, E. W. (2004). Peaceful persuasion: the geopolitics of nonviolent rhetoric.
Albany: State University of New York Press.
Green, C. S. III, & Klug, H. G. (1990). Teaching critical thinking and writing through
debates: An experimental evaluation. Teaching Sociology, 18, 462-471.
Hawkins-Leon, C. G. (1998). The Socratic method-problem method dichotomy: The
debate over teaching method continues. Brigham Young University Education &
Law Journal, 1(1), 1-18.
Jin, G., Bierma, T. J., Broadbear, J. T. (2004). Critical thinking among environmental
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Environmental Health, 67(3), 15-20.
Keeley, S. M. (1992). Are college students learning the critical thinking skill of
finding assumptions? College Student Journal, 26, 316–322.
Larson, C. U. (2009). Persuasion: Reception and responsibility (12th ed.). Wadworth,
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Littlejohn, S.W. (2003). Theories of Human Communication (5th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Lujan, H. & DiCarlo, S. (2006). Too much teaching, not enough learning: what is the
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ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 27
McPeck, J. E. (1981). Critical thinking and education. New York, NY: Saint Martin’s
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ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 28
Steinert, Y. (2004). Student perceptions of effective small group teaching. Medical
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ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 29
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.
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
All interviews will be recorded and later transcribed.
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.
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.
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 30
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.
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.
• 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
• 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
Topic: Self Directed learning
• Did you enjoy taking part in Aristotle’s Café, if so or if not, why?
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 31
• What did you learn today, if anything? Are you interested in taking part in it
• 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
• 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
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
• Do you think differently after this event and how?
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!
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 32
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: email@example.com
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.
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
3. I will also be asked my age, gender, and academic year (Freshmen, sophomore,
1. There are no known foreseeable risks or discomforts involved in participating in
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.
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
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 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-
Signature ________________________________ Date ________________
Signature ________________________________ Date ________________
Gender: Male Female
Academic Year: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 34
6. Eye opening
24. Cognitive dissonance
25. Not caring
33. Reading body language
37. Personal issues
41. Support-of group as “a strong
group of people”
42. Support of Aristotle’s café
43. Identification with Aristotle’s
45. Restored faith
47. No tension
49. Proper reactions
51. No right or wrong
52. Shades of right
59. Growth-of AC
65. Annoyed-at those who don’t
67. Self-Abstraction-I leave my
opinions checked at the door
68. Not taken personally
72. Compliance to AC
76. Stagnant-in other places
79. Responsibility-must explain
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 35
85. Applicability of knowledge-as a
psychology major I can read
88. Physical senses
89. Bashing of alternative methods
90. Open minded
98. Politically correct
109. Truth seeking
113. Socially acceptable
121. Extension of class
124. Course knowledge
125. Throwing it out there
investment/or lack there of
128. Separation of facts and
136. Thoughts to words
150. Critical thinking
153. Making sense
155. Not apathetic
162. Outside activity
164. More information
171. Cultural understanding
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 36
174. Community awareness
178. Throw out your opinion
184. Outside of class
196. Not aware
197. Hard to figure out
198. Life crisis
205. See the other side
211. Status quo
215. Short time
217. Conversation flow
222. Not right or wrong
223. Low key
229. Expert knowledge
230. Conversation flow
234. Hard to communication
248. New ways of
252. Identification with AC
ARISTOTLE’S CAFÉ 37
263. Too uncontroversial