Skip to main content

PHS Banner

Paideia Socratic Seminar

From the National Paideia Center
The first stage in the development of a Paideia Classroom or a Paideia School involves the consistent use of the Paideia Seminar (based on the classical Socratic Seminar). We define Paideia Seminar as a collaborative intellectual dialogue facilitated by open-ended questions about a text. In the case of the Paideia School, this could lead to the Paideia Seminar Certification, which documents the integration of the seminar into all aspects of school life.

Specific learning objectives for the Paideia Seminar include both intellectual and social skills. Each seminar—whether for adults or students—nurtures proficiency in both thinking and communication. Consistent implementation of seminar practice across a school community results in:

  • significantly improved achievement scores in reading and writing, especially among traditionally underserved populations;
  • improved student motivation due to increased student voice in an active environment;
  • a more respectful school culture with fewer behavior problems.

Paideia Seminar Cycle

The Paideia Seminar Cycle comprises multiple close readings of a chosen text prior to discussion, formal speaking and listening during the seminar itself, and the post-seminar writing process, so all the core literacy skills are practiced consistently and synergistically. Since the Paideia Seminar Cycle features all the core skills of reading, speaking, listening, and writing, it allows the teacher to coach critical and creative thinking throughout, and students receive constant practice in thinking and discussion.

Snapshots from Seminar Discussions
During opening Seminar of the year…
Students made many observations about the good and bad effects of personal technology on our lives, including the following:
               “‘ Touchscreen’ by Marshall Jones is even more relevant today than when it was written because a lot more people are addicted to phones/games/movies and apps like TikTok, and more people have phones. We are losing our human nature.”

The CWP/Civics Class has a Seminar on the Ramirez v Collier case...
     The US Supreme Court ruled on Ramirez v Collier in 2022. In discussing the question that faced that court, and their views on the issue, one student posed the question,
               “Does citizenship entitle you to rights, or does having the rights make you a citizen?”
     This question prompted a good discussion of hard ideas and realities. Not everyone left the seminar certain of what he or she thought, but everyone spent some time thinking, speaking, and listening.

Questions posed by students from English III / IV Seminar for the poem My Last Duchess included...
   A student inquiry regarding the Duke’s jealousy towards his departed wife and asking for clarification about the word/term jealousy.
               “Does jealousy mean you have to control someone?”
   In reference to the Duke keeping his wife’s picture, a student observation about people keeping photos of their dearly departed loved ones means,
               “He doesn’t want to forget the ones he loves.” 

Comments from students during the Dance Class discussion...
   Sophomore students' observations during a dance performance video review about PHS in general:
               “I came here because I was looking for something better than where I was, and I think I found that.” 
               “Before I came to Paideia, I really struggled at my old school to the point where I didn’t even want to go there.”
   A student elaborating about PHS teachers:
               “You talk with the teachers, they remember your names, and you get close with the people who are here.”

Comments from students during the Julius Caesar discussion…
On March 8 in their seminar over William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the freshmen discussed who the actual protagonist of the play is. Many good answers were posited, with a consensus that since he dies halfway through, even though his name is the title, it isn’t really all about Caesar. When one student proposed that really, the protagonist of the play was Rome itself, as that society and government is really what changes the most, two other students immediately changed their answers and helped make the case.

Quotes during the 'What makes a good life' discussion
   Staff: When do you remember being truly happy? 
   Student: "When I made my first true friend." 

               "Are you saying that your own experiences include what you have seen in other people?"