Because I have promised to write about Socratic Circles (SCs) in the art room for a while....
Because my SCs technique was featured in the NAEA News Middle Level Division Report in January...
Because I am presenting on SCs during an upcoming NAEA best practices webinar...
I decided I better dedicate some time to blogging about this technique I use in my art room. Socratic Circles (also known as Socratic Seminars) are where students lead the conversation with their own ideas, thoughts, and questions. The teacher acts as facilitator and only steps in to the conversation if needed.
Because I Teach for Artistic Behaviors (TAB) and offer a choice-based project learning environment, I wanted students to inquire and be fully engaged in art discussions as well. In turn, I suspected that this inquiry-based discussion technique could lead to deeper questioning while project planning and creating art. I decided to make this a teacher evaluation goal for my Professional Growth Plan (PGP) and a focus for my National Board Certification process. Luckily, my school district partnered with University of Arkansas professor Chris Goering to offer a yearlong training for Socratic Circles. The teachers learned first hand how to be a part of and implement SCs in our classrooms.
I know what some of you might be thinking - we (art teachers) use various discussion strategies with artworks all the time - Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), Feldman's Art Criticism Method, Artful Thinking from Harvard Project Zero, etc. - how is this any different? Well, the beautiful thing about SCs is the fact that they encompass and combine all of those techniques while also giving the students the opportunity to lead their own discussions and inquiries. You can still incorporate art questions, art vocabulary, and paraphrasing when needed - but this gives students a bit more control.
This process takes a little explaining and practice, but once they get it, wow - it's powerful and amazing to hear students talk and learn from each other. So not only are kiddos talking about art and making personal inquiries about it, they're also learning to have respectful conversations with each other. Don't we all need to put down our devices and talk once and a while? This really teaches students to listen, look, and be polite with each other. SCs are not debates - it isn't 'I'm right, and you're wrong'. You can disagree with someone during a conversation without getting ugly. During SCs, students are learning manners, doing a little character building, AND discussing art. Win, win, win!
Next blog post is about how SCs work in my class along with some handouts and some reflection.
How do you get your students inquiring about artists and their artworks???
Artfully, Nikki K.