The Guide on the Side

Dropping in on a Williston Northampton history class the other day, I saw the best of the Socratic method taking place among a group of eager ninth-grade students. 

Sarah Klumpp’s slightly wry questions ignited instant responses from her students. They, in turn, engaged one another on the topic of the day: the range of women’s rights among a number of Arab states as portrayed in press accounts from the United States to the United Kingdom to the Middle East. 

With a terse “how do you know?” or a prying, “are you stating an ethnocentric idea?” Ms. Klumpp masterfully guided her students into higher-level reasoning skills. 

Since her students were charged with independent Internet research, they were required to be discerning synthesizers of information. Because they had to present their findings orally, they were practicing clear communication skills. Since they responded to one another without the teacher’s prompting, they had, clearly, taken an important step in becoming thoughtful listeners. 

One of the great pleasures of my day is to stop by a classroom and witness our faculty guiding students in precisely these areas as 21st century learners.


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