According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are approximately 130,930 K-12 schools in the United States. Standardized tests, whiteboard lectures, and front-facing desks define the learning environment for the majority of these institutions. Lectures and textbook reading take up most of the time, fostering a passive form of learning. Acton private schools deviate from the conventional learning methods, adopting Socratic discussions for their lessons.
What Is the Socratic Approach to Learning?
One of the cornerstones of Acton private schools is Socratic discussions: respectful deliberations and engagements between ‘Socratic guides’ and the learners. It is a query-based learning model adopted from Socrates, who has long been considered the father of modern education. He believed that as a self-learner, you need first to accept your ignorance and realize that there is a world of knowledge ready to be tapped into. You may also need to accept that what you know might not be as correct as you think. The Socratic approach enables learners to question, think critically, and come up with their own conclusion.
In the student lead private school, the Socratic approach is not emphatically “teaching” per se. It is a question-based learning system designed to provoke thought on different topics. The role of the Socratic guide is to inspire and give students a chance to explore their skills and knowledge rather than to lecture.
The Socratic guide is not a purveyor of knowledge, filling your child’s mind with facts to be regurgitated in rote memorization. The learner’s experience in Acton private schools is a shared dialogue between the guides and the students, pushing the dialogue forward through questioning. The inquiries are more open-ended, allowing your child to draw their own conclusions without the guide leading them to a pre-determined argument.
Essentials of Socratic Learning
The original text for a specific subject is key for a healthy Socratic discussion. Students in an Acton Academy seek to be independent thinkers, spending time discussing, engaging, and reading original sources before the lesson. The Socratic guides, though not necessarily trained in teaching, have a passion for the particular subject matter. Progressive questioning allows the learners to engage with the ideas, creating discussions that would not happen in traditional private schools.
In the question-oriented dialogue, the Socratic guides pick up a role that appears more subservient to the learners. It allows your child to have greater control of their learning process, thinking of important concepts in a new light.
Benefits of the Learner Driven Approach
Students have the opportunity to direct their learning. Acton’s K-8 grade students can customize their learning experience by setting objectives for themselves for a particular subject. The Socratic guides can moderate the discussions to highlight the focus of the day, core skills, and purpose of the activities. Your child can become an independent thinker by answering their questions by consulting the four Bs: Brain, Board, Blinks, or Buddy. The group-based settings also improve their collaborative skills, with students learning to work with their peers.
Socratic discussions that are at the core of Acton private schools provide a context for students to engage in collaborative conversations that lead to a shared understanding. For more information on how the Socratic method is integrated with Acton’s student learning, reach out to East Valley Acton Academy.