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Teacher and students’ interaction in Socratic Seminar

Teacher and students’ interaction in Socratic Seminar

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Another research written by Francesco (2014) on the influence of Socratic

Seminar on leadership skills. The researcher used a variety of instruments

(survey, video recordings, and tests) to affirm the results which were that

students can improve their leadership skills after engaging in Socratic seminars.

When it comes to applying this technique to language teaching, however,

there is not nearly as much research upon which to build. The previous research

was conducted by Melia Andryani, student of Tanjungpura University who used

Socratic seminar to improve students’ speaking skill on hortatory exposition

text. She found that the use of the seminar had a positive effect on students’

speaking performance. However, the writer of this study used oral test as the

only one instrument to collect data, which might not guarantee the reliability of

the study.

The results of the previous studies show that the use of Socratic Seminar

has a positive effect on students’ academic development and language skill.

There is, however, little research touching upon the use of the technique in

teaching speaking skills. The previous studies conducted to explore the

effectiveness of the technique had not made clear the interaction process in

Socratic Seminar, how it is perceived by the students. Moreover, previous

studies did not focus the implementation of the technique on English-majored

students.

These study results would encourage more researchers to conduct studies

to find out new discoveries. To the best of the researcher’s knowledge, in

Vietnam, there has not been any research on the use of Socratic seminar in

teaching field. The only research related to Socratic questioning was “The

casebook and Socratic methods in the United States legal education” written by

Truong Hai Ha (2011), University of Languages and International Studies,

which introduces the use of Socratic method in law teaching in the United

States, not in language teaching. Hence, the researcher decided to carry out this

study to explore the effectiveness of using Socratic seminar by figuring out the

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students’ perspectives of Faculty of Foreign Languages at Hanoi Pedagogical

University 2.

6. Action research

6.1 Definition

Action research is one of the most popular methods for teachers to

develop their academic career. It helps them to improve the quality of the

lessons, and then students’ learning can be developed. Cohen and Manion

(1994) define action research (AR) as ‘a small-scale intervention in the

functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such an

intervention’. Action research is designed to bridge the gap between research

and practice (Somekh 1995). Action research is the process of systematic

collection and analysis of data in order to make changes and improvement or

solve problems (Wallace, 1998, p. 1 and Coles & Quirke, 2001, p. 14). This

definition seems to be in line with Borg (2010)’s definition, he states that action

research is a form of practitioner research which is characterized by particular

procedures, which broadly involve the introduction and evaluation of new

practices, typically through a number of cycles. Similarly, action research is

defined as “taking a self-reflective, critical and systematic approach to exploring

your own teaching contexts.” (Burns, 2010)

6.2 Characteristics of action research

Hult and Lennung (1980) and McKernan (1991) suggest that action

research:

 makes for practical problem-solving as well as expanding scientific

knowledge

 enhances the competencies of participants

 is collaborative

 is undertaken directly in situ

 uses feedback from data in an ongoing cyclical process

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 seeks to understand particular complex social situations

 seeks to understand the process of change within social systems

 focuses on those problems that are of immediate concern to

practitioners

 is participatory

 frequently uses case study

 tends to avoid the paradigm of research that isolates and controls

variables.

 is formative, such that the definition of the problem, the aims and

methodology may alter during the process of action research

 includes evaluation and reflection

 is methodologically eclectic

 contributes to a science of education

 strives to render the research usable and shareable by participants

 is dialogical and celebrates discourse

 has a critical purpose in some forms

 strives to be emancipatory

6.3 Steps in action research

According to Kemmis and McTaggart (1988), action research typically

involves four broad phases in a cycle of research. The first cycle may become a

continuing, or iterative, spiral of cycles which recur until the action researcher

has achieved a satisfactory outcome and feels it is time to stop.

1. Planning

In this phase you identify a problem or issue and develop a plan of action

in order to bring about improvements in a specific area of the research context.

This is a forward-looking phase where you consider: i) what kind of

investigation is possible within the realities and constraints of your teaching

situation; and ii) what potential improvements you think are possible.

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2. Action

The plan is a carefully considered one which involves some deliberate

interventions into your teaching situation that you put into action over an agreed

period of time. The interventions are ‘critically informed’ as you question your

assumptions about the current situation and plan new and alternative ways of

doing things.

3. Observation

This phase involves you in observing systematically the effects of the

action and documenting the context, actions and opinions of those involved. It is

a data collection phase where you use ‘open-eyed’ and ‘open-minded’ tools to

collect information about what is happening.

4. Reflection

At this point, you reflect on, evaluate and describe the effects of the action

in order to make sense of what has happened and to understand the issue you

have explored more clearly. You may decide to do further cycles of AR to

improve the situation even more, or to share the ‘story’ of your research with

others as part of your ongoing professional development.

(Adapted from Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988, pp. 11–14)

The Kemmis & Mc Taggart’s model has been considered inflexible by

some authors. McNiff (1988), for instance, sees it as “prescriptive”. She would

like to see a more flexible model which allows the researchers to be more

creative. Ebbutt (1985) argues that AR cycles should be successive and open,

and allow for as much feedback and interaction between the cycles as possible.

Despite being criticized for its rigidity, Kemmis and McTaggart’s model is

probably the most popular one. Therefore, the researcher decided to use the

model as a useful way in doing this research.



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Figure 1. Cyclical AR model based on Kemmis and McTaggart (1988)



6.4 Rationale for choosing action research

As stated earlier, action research is the process of systematic

collection and analysis of data in order to make changes and improvement or

solve problems (Wallace, 1998 and Coles & Quirke, 2001). In my opinion,

action research is the most appropriate method to make changes and

improvement in the current state of education. Action research helps teachers to

identify the problems and work out the solutions to them. Moreover, action

research aims at changing things (Nunan, 1992, p.17), which allows teachers to

change their situation of teaching and students’ learning.

7. Summary

This chapter reviewed the literature concerned with the introduction of

Socratic Seminar, the use of it in education, how it is linked to speaking

teaching. The review indicated that the use of Socratic Seminar in language

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teaching in Vietnam is still a new area which inspires the researcher to carry out

this study.



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