Socratic Seminar PD Resources — Harkness Pinwheel

This is an excerpt of a previous post titled Critical Thinking In Primary Schools

After much deliberation and planning, our class recently held our first student-led Socratic seminar. After exploring options and seeking advice from my digital PLN, the #TG2chat crew, I decided on using the Harkness Pinwheel method. In keeping with my commitment to provide learning opportunities that have a deep meaning beyond our classroom doors, I settled on the following driving question:

How could Australia Day be described as “a day of celebration” and “a day of mourning”?

I curated a Padlet and physical resources that included a range of short texts, videos, images and songs which students were able to explore collaboratively with peers. Students spent the morning discussing, reading, watching, and note taking with full autonomy over the exploration and consumption of resources. Some explored Dreamtime stories while others investigated the stolen generation. The most powerful prompt was the video below which describes how the iconic Australian song, From Little Things Big Things Grow, was inspired by the events of the Walk Off at Wave Hill. Through the song, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody retrace the steps of Vincent Lingiari as he battles the British Lord Vestey Manon behalf of the Gurindji People of the Northern Territory. It takes a fair bit to coax a tear out of my eyes, but this story gets me every single time.

I was looking to build a range of perspectives and to provide enough opportunities for individuals to find a hook that interested them. But really, I over prepared, as this one incredible provocation provided more than enough talking points for students. Our pinwheel split our class into an observation and a discussion group. The observation group were tasked with tracking who was contributing, asking questions, re-directing and drawing peers into the discussion, and offered feedback about active listening and speaking skills. The discussion group attempted to construct their own questions and wait for pauses in conversation to interject or build on ideas. My job was to sit in the outer circle and map contributions and questions and speak only if comments became pointed against an individual instead of their ideas.

The first group featured several confident and articulate speakers who I hoped would model positive speaking and listening skills, and managed to generate most of their own questions. The second group less so and needed a couple of probing questions.


While both groups asked some thoughtful questions, many were fact-based around what they already knew, rather than attempting to explore deeper unanswered or opinion based questions that might’ve provided more connections between resources covered. This provides us with an opportunity to explore how to create more essential questions.

Too many days blend into each other over the long grind of another school year, but today I will remember for a long time. I hope my students will too.




Marion Coast PD session resources.






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