Home > Uncategorized > Socratic Circles and Backchanneling v.1.0

Socratic Circles and Backchanneling v.1.0

My classes have gained experience in the use of Socratic Circles this year. The basic formula for that activity is one of the following:

students first read a passage critically and then form two concentric circles. First, the inner circle examines and discusses the text and the second circle comments on the quality of the dialogue. Then, the two circles switch places and roles, and the process is repeated with the new ideas from a new circle. The outer circle is required to remain quiet while the inner circle reacts and dialogues, and conversely, the inner circle must listen quietly to the outer circle’s evaluation of their conversation.

One new feature we are experimenting with is the use of backchanneling. One backchanneling that’s been a part of this experimentation is Today’s Meet. Today’s Meet gives their own basic definition of  backchanneling as:

The backchannel is everything going on in the room that isn’t coming from the presenter.

The backchannel is where people ask each other questions, pass notes, get distracted, and give you the most immediate feedback you’ll ever get.

The procedure is now altered to one of:

  1. Group the class into two circles.
  2. The Inner Circle speaks first using Socratic questioning methods.
  3. The Outer Circle backchannels using Today’s Meet while the Inner Circle discusses.
  4. Time is called and the transcript of the backchannel is turned into a word cloud for analysis.
  5. The Inner Circle’s work is evaluated while new topics are generated from the evaluation and word cloud.
  6. The circles switch and the new circles have their respective discussions and backchannel sessions.

So here is an example of Socratic Circles at work with students discussing the first part of “The Odyssey”.


Here is the transcript of the backchannel from that session. Below is the word cloud generated from the backchannel session:



Click on the link above to see this word cloud at WordItOut. You may also view it on this website if you enable JavaScript (see your web browser settings).

Word cloud made with WordItOut

Categories: Uncategorized
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