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The socratic tutorial


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Presentation made by SR at EDDG meeting, October 2009

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The socratic tutorial

  1. 1. The Socratic Tutorial (that doesn’t end with hemlock).
  2. 2. Contents <ul><li>The student context </li></ul><ul><li>Tensions for students </li></ul><ul><li>Consequences for tutors </li></ul><ul><li>Why Socrates? </li></ul><ul><li>The Socratic method </li></ul>
  3. 3. The student context <ul><li>Students tend to have: </li></ul><ul><li>unrealistic aspirations </li></ul><ul><li>an unrealistic sense of their own abilities </li></ul><ul><li>an unrealistic view of ‘hard work’ </li></ul><ul><li>a focus on ‘rights’ over ‘responsibilities’ (e.g. bursaries) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Carol Craig and Emily Cutts: Centre for Well being and Confidence <ul><li>Found: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A lack of evidence that a boosting self-esteem is successful. Research in USA shows attempts by teachers and parents to raise self-esteem has encouraged too much self-absorption and contributed an increase in depression. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Teachers tend to: praise individuals too much, restrict competition, give everyone praise and recognition, avoid giving negative feedback, give grades that are aspirational, restrict opportunities to fail. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. e.g. Who told you you were good? <ul><li>Steven from Sheffield http:// =_1mQ_B3Q65c (2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Ariel Burdett (2008) </li></ul><ul><li>http:// =nAI8qkUgqU4 </li></ul>
  6. 6. High self-esteem can be a problem <ul><ul><li>Instead a focus on confidence and resilience is more successful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s important to use negative experiences. Bad feelings have a purpose – they galvanise us to do things differently. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. The student context <ul><li>Students also tend to: </li></ul><ul><li>5. be passive /surface learners – consequences of Higher Still? </li></ul><ul><li>6. have an external locus of control </li></ul><ul><li>7. prone to learned helplessness </li></ul><ul><li>8. be less resilient </li></ul>
  8. 8. High INTERNAL locus of control <ul><li>Locus of control is measured on a scale which runs from high internal to high external control. </li></ul><ul><li>If an individual has a high internal locus they: </li></ul><ul><li>take responsibility for their actions </li></ul><ul><li>view themselves as being in charge of what happens to them. </li></ul>
  9. 9. High EXTERNAL locus of control <ul><li>An individual with a high external locus of control would: </li></ul><ul><li>tend to see their fate in the hands of others </li></ul><ul><li>attribute both success and failures to others. </li></ul><ul><li>Life events stress was found to be more related to depression and anxiety among people with high external locus (Johnson & Sarason, 1978). </li></ul>
  10. 10. Learned Helplessness <ul><li>Locus of control is related to learned helplessness </li></ul><ul><li>This refers to the belief that nothing we do will make any difference to our situation. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Depression and learned helplessness <ul><li>Seligman (1975) found that rats who were given inescapable foot-shocks failed to learn to escape from avoidable ones later. </li></ul><ul><li>He showed this also occurs in humans, and concluded that the experience of life being uncontrollable is an important factor in depression. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Task! <ul><li>How much do you think you control your own life? </li></ul><ul><li>Did you choose this workshop yourself?! </li></ul>
  13. 13. Tensions for students <ul><li>So – </li></ul><ul><li>On the one hand students can be unrealistic and complacent </li></ul><ul><li>On the other they can be easily knocked and need lots of confidence boosting </li></ul>
  14. 14. Quick question <ul><li>Are these trends true in your experience? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Consequences for tutors – the stuff we like less <ul><li>Having to lower student expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Having to steer students on to less ambitious programmes </li></ul><ul><li>Challenging their notions of what ‘hard work’ is </li></ul><ul><li>Reminding them that rights come with responsibilities </li></ul>
  16. 16. Consequences for tutors – the stuff we quite like doing <ul><li>5. Boosting self esteem / confidence </li></ul><ul><li>6. Building resilience </li></ul><ul><li>7. Passive to active learners (surface to deep) - fostering independent study and reflectiveness </li></ul>
  17. 17. Good cop / bad cop <ul><li> one minute we are nagging them </li></ul><ul><li>and </li></ul><ul><li> bolstering them the next </li></ul>
  18. 18. Summary <ul><li>Bad cop </li></ul><ul><li>Having to lower student expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Having to steer students on to less ambitious programmes </li></ul><ul><li>Challenging their notions of what ‘hard work’ is </li></ul><ul><li>Reminding them that rights come with responsibilities </li></ul><ul><li>Good cop </li></ul><ul><li>Boosting self esteem / confidence </li></ul><ul><li>Building resilience </li></ul><ul><li>Passive to active learners (surface/deep) – fostering independent study and reflectiveness </li></ul>
  19. 20. Quick question <ul><li>How do you deal with these tensions? </li></ul>
  20. 21. Why Socrates? <ul><li>Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.) devoted himself to free-wheeling discussion with the aristocratic young citizens of Athens </li></ul><ul><li>He insistently questioned their confidence in the truth of popular opinions, even though he often offered them no clear alternative teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>He declined to accept payment for his work, but despite (or perhaps because) of this, many of them were fanatically loyal to him . </li></ul>
  21. 22. Unpopular in certain circles <ul><li>Their parents, however, were often displeased with his influence on their offspring, </li></ul><ul><li>and his earlier association with opponents of the democratic regime had already made him a controversial political figure. </li></ul>
  22. 23. Oh dear… <ul><li>Although the amnesty of 405 forestalled direct prosecution for his political activities, an Athenian jury found other charges – </li></ul><ul><li>‘ corrupting the youth’ and ‘interfering with the religion of the city’ - and they sentenced him to death </li></ul><ul><li>In 399 B.C.E. Socrates accepted this outcome with remarkable grace, and drank hemlock and died in the company of his friends and disciples . </li></ul>
  23. 24. So what was his method? <ul><li>In the Socratic dialogues, his extended conversations aim at: </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding and achieving virtue through critical inquiry by undermining the plausibility of widely-held doctrines </li></ul><ul><li>Destroying the illusion that we already comprehend the world perfectly </li></ul><ul><li>Honestly accepting the fact of our own ignorance, as a vital step toward our acquisition of genuine knowledge. </li></ul>
  24. 25. Even in death! <ul><li>Crito reports that during Socrates' imprisonment he responded to friendly efforts to help him escape by seriously debating whether or not it would be right for him to do so. He concluded that an individual citizen, even the victim of unjust treatment, can never be justified in refusing to obey the laws of the state. </li></ul>
  25. 26. The Socratic method <ul><li>Unconditional positive regard (Rogers) </li></ul><ul><li>Ask questions rather than make statements to develop an internal locus of control </li></ul><ul><li>Give students the illusion that they have solved their own problem! </li></ul>
  26. 27. A typical dialogue <ul><li>T: how did the NAB go? </li></ul><ul><li>S: I failed it </li></ul><ul><li>T: oh dear, when’s the re-sit? </li></ul><ul><li>S: I don’t know </li></ul><ul><li>T: oh. why don’t you know? Didn’t the teacher say? </li></ul><ul><li>S: Probably, but I missed the class </li></ul><ul><li>T: How can you find out? </li></ul><ul><li>S: Suppose I could go and see them </li></ul><ul><li>T: great – can you do that today? </li></ul>
  27. 28. Discussing failure <ul><li>T: so why do you think you failed? </li></ul><ul><li>S: I wasn’t ready </li></ul><ul><li>T: didn’t you have enough notice of the date? </li></ul><ul><li>S: yeah, but I didn’t do enough really </li></ul><ul><li>T: oh. How many hours did you do? </li></ul><ul><li>S: mmm a few the week before </li></ul><ul><li>T: what’s ‘a few’ mean? </li></ul><ul><li>S: bout 2 hours </li></ul><ul><li>T: how many hours revision do you think you would need for a pass? </li></ul><ul><li>S: Dunno. I suppose more than that! </li></ul>
  28. 29. <ul><li>Xenophon says: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ I was never acquainted with anyone who took greater care to find out what each of his companions knew’ (Memorabilia 4.7.1) </li></ul>
  29. 30. Lateness <ul><li>S: I got chucked out of maths today </li></ul><ul><li>T: that’s unusual. How did that happen? </li></ul><ul><li>S: came in late and he just barred me, I can’t believe it </li></ul><ul><li>T: how many times have you been late before? </li></ul><ul><li>S: not many – not enough to get barred – I think its personal – he hates me </li></ul><ul><li>T: that’s strange. shall we check the register? It says you’ve missed 40% and been late 4 times </li></ul><ul><li>S: yeah but….. </li></ul>
  30. 31. Catastrophising <ul><li>S: I’m giving up the course, I just can’t get through it all </li></ul><ul><li>T: how many units are outstanding? </li></ul><ul><li>S: loads </li></ul><ul><li>T: I thought you’ve passed 14 out of 18? </li></ul><ul><li>S: yeah but I’m too far behind. I don’t understand any of it </li></ul><ul><li>T: have you asked you teachers for help? </li></ul><ul><li>S: yeah but they’re too busy </li></ul><ul><li>T: did you give them something specific to work with? </li></ul>
  31. 32. And now over to you…. <ul><li>Is this what you do? </li></ul><ul><li>Any problems with this method? </li></ul><ul><li>What do other tutors do? </li></ul>
  32. 33. Possible problems <ul><li>Time </li></ul><ul><li>Patience </li></ul><ul><li>When it’s a lecturer fault </li></ul>
  33. 34. And if you’re having no success, there’s always Hemlock!