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EARCOS Weekend Workshop: Socratic Seminars: Leading Authentic Classroom Conversations with John Zola

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Workshop Outline

Socratic seminars are teacher-led classroom discussions that promote higher level thinking, more careful reading of texts, and increased skills of classroom and civil discussion.  They are appropriate for students at any grade (1-12) and are most effective in literature, social studies, history, and other “humanities” courses. This workshop is highly participatory and interactive.  Each day begins with a seminar in which all participate. By participating in actual seminars, participants are able to experience what their students might experience and learn the process “by doing.”  The other hallmark of seminar trainings is the repetition of “micro-seminars.” Conducted in a “jigsaw” manner, each participant leads a seminar after having time to prepare to do so with fellow participants and then participates in three other seminars.  The “hands and minds on” aspect of this is extremely powerful as participants do the actual work of preparing for and leading seminars. The remaining elements of the seminar workshop include making participant and leading behaviors explicit, identifying the elements of good seminar texts, exploring issues related to grading and assessment of seminars, and determining the best ways to implement seminars in the participants’ own classrooms.

As a result of attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • describe the specific elements of a Socratic seminar and how each contributes to the overall learning goals of seminars;
  • list aspects of effective participation and leadership in Socratic seminars;
  • engage in the process of “Socratic” questioning and compare it with other forms of classroom questioning; 
  • discuss issues related to the assessment of Socratic seminars; 
  • identify characteristics of high quality texts for use in Socratic seminars; 
  • conduct micro-Socratic seminars as a way of learning leading skills;
  • understand that conducting Socratic seminars is a “practice” that takes on-going training, coaching and practice 


Day 1:
08:30-10:00 - Session 1: Welcome, First Adult Seminar
10:00-10:20 - Coffee Break
10:20-12:00 - Session 2: Participating in Seminars and Socratic Questioning
12:00-12:45 - Lunch Break
12:45-14:30 - Session 3: Leading Seminars, Micro Seminars #1
14:30-14:45 - Coffee Break
14:45-16:30 - Session 4: Micro Seminars #1, continued; selecting texts

Day 2:
08:30-10:00 - Session 5: Welcome/Adult Seminar #2 and Critique
10:00-10:20 - Coffee Break
10:20-12:00 - Session 6: Implementation, Part 2
12:00-12:45 - Lunch Break
12:45-15:00 - Session 7: Assessment, Micro Seminars #2 and closure

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About John Zola

John Zola spent 32 years as a high school social studies teacher, most recently at New Vista High School, a “break the mold” public high school in Boulder, Colorado. There, he developed a wide variety of courses and implemented Socratic seminars and other interactive instructional strategies on a regular basis. John served as a Senior Instructor in the School of Education at the University of Colorado where he taught the secondary Social Studies methods course. He also was the Director of School and University Partnerships where he directed an innovative program that focused on new teacher induction.

Throughout his career, John has developed interactive teaching materials and trained colleagues in active learning strategies and Socratic seminars. He has presented workshops that help teachers make the voice and work of students central in the classroom. Many of these workshops were presented in countries of the former Soviet Union where they helped to promote the skills and dispositions needed in the new democracies. John currently conducts in-service trainings on civic education and teaching strategies in a variety of locations around the United States, Central Europe, and Asia.

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Workshop Details

Trainer: John Zola

Who should attend: Classroom teachers, elementary/middle/secondary, language arts, social studies, humanities

When: Saturday, 10 and Sunday, 11 November 2018, 8.30am-4.30pm (until 3pm on Sunday)

Where: UWCSEA Dover Campus, Conference Centre

Workshop fees: US$65/S$90 for EARCOS member schools | US$165/S$230 for non-EARCOS members



Thank you for your interest. The Workshop is now full.

*Fees include certificate of attendance, course materials, notepad, snacks and lunch both days.


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