Pretending to be Socrates: a critical discourse analysis of two methods of Socratic seminar

The purpose of this work was to compare two methods of seminar-style discussion, commonly referred to as Socratic seminars—one in which students participate alone, and one in which the teacher joins the students. The comparison aimed to determine the discursive features of Socratic seminar and to examine the teacher’s role in and effect on the seminar. Additionally, the research was aimed at exploring which method might be more ideal for student learning. A qualitative study was designed that featured observation and audio recording of two similar seminar events in the same sophomore theology class. The audio was transcribed and analyzed according to the principles of critical discourse analysis, examining each discursive event as a type of discourse, as a text, and as a social action. The analysis revealed that the features of such seminars are more indicative of dialogic interaction when students control the discussion and more indicative of traditional or “Socratic” interaction when the teacher becomes involved as a participant.