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A Typology for an Online Socrates Café


by Jody Piro & Gina Anderson — 2016

Background/Context: Increased polarization of viewpoints in the United States may have detrimental consequences for democratic pedagogy. The goals of civil society require a reliance on democratic values, and active participation is necessary for a strong civil society that demands the common good be deliberated in democratic ways. Discussion as pedagogy has been advanced for furthering democratic learning spaces in higher education with adults and in teacher education programs. Opportunities to participate in democratic discussions may also be created in online courses to prepare students who are literate in multiculturalism and an inclusive society. Engaging students in discussion that facilitates diverse perspectives and that challenges taken-for-granted assumptions is necessary.

Purpose: This article explores the theoretical frameworks of a pedagogy of process called a Socrates Café, resulting in a typology for an online Socrates Café. This framework may assist instructors to create and sustain purposeful online discussion forums that engage students in deliberative discussion to develop democratic learning spaces and civil discourse. If democratic pedagogies are enhanced when people deliberate in online discussions by sharing their reasoning with each other, listening to competing points of view, considering new evidence, and treating one another as political equals, then the Socrates Café has much to offer as a pedagogical process.

Research Design: Drawing on scholarship from key pedagogical and dispositional components, this analytical essay offers a typology that finds its theoretical roots in several areas, including: philosophical forum, discussion and dialogue, critical inquiry, habits of mind, intellectual traits, critical reflection, and civil discourse.

Findings/Results: From both the pedagogical and dispositional components of the Socrates Café, we develop an integrative framework for guiding the creation and ongoing development of an online discussion. Our purpose in creating the framework was to determine those pedagogical and attitudinal dispositions that were foundational elements of the online Socrates Café: clarity of thinking and other habits of mind; attitudes of empathy, confidence, open mindedness and scholarliness; and questioning and dialogue.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This essay concludes that the online Socrates Café is fraught with unavoidable contradictions resulting in a pedagogy of process that is negotiated and dynamic, but also purposeful and intentional. The integrative framework proposed in this work assists students to examine who they are as scholars, practitioners, and members of a democratic society. The inherent tensions between the competing values that situate the Socrates Café make it a complex pedagogy that invites students to encounter issues that surpass the self and connect them with larger societal problems, enhancing the potential for discussions that are purposeful and result in an expansion of perspectives. Supporting students as they negotiate these and other contradictions and paradoxes in a functional Socrates Café has immense potential for facilitating democratic spaces in pedagogy for civil discourse.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 5, 2016, p. 1-26
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19365, Date Accessed: 10/23/2017 11:13:27 AM

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About the Author
  • Jody Piro
    Western Connecticut State University
    E-mail Author
    JODY S. PIRO, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor in the Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership program at Western Connecticut State University. She has been involved in education for over twenty-five years in K-12 as a social studies teacher and as a dean and principal, and in higher education as a professor and dissertation director. Dr. Piro’s current scholarly interests focus on integral instruction and problematizing discussion for critical analysis and civil discourse. Dr. Piro is the author of the book 10 Dilemmas in Teaching with Discussion: Managing Integral Instruction, which will be published in 2016. Her most recent publications with co-author Gina Anderson include, Discussions in Socrates Café: Implications for Critical Thinking in Teacher Education, Managing the Paradoxes of Discussion Pedagogy, and A Partnership in a Pedagogy of Process: Conversations about Co-teaching Critical Analysis.
  • Gina Anderson
    Texas Woman’s University
    E-mail Author
    GINA ANDERSON, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and the Interim Associate Dean College of Professional Education Program at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Prior to her work at TWU, Dr. Anderson taught several years of elementary and middle school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and served as a student teacher supervisor and teaching and research assistant at Oklahoma State University. Culturally-responsive teaching strategies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning guide her research and scholarly interests. Her most recent publications with co-author Jody Piro include, Discussions in Socrates Café: Implications for Critical Thinking in Teacher Education, Managing the Paradoxes of Discussion Pedagogy, and A Partnership in a Pedagogy of Process: Conversations about Co-teaching Critical Analysis.
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