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​Westminster College Education Students and Lecturer Present on Socratic Seminars to Local Reading Council

Thursday, May 22, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Two Westminster students and a professor presented information on using Socratic Seminars as a discussion technique in March to the Butler Lawrence Mercer Reading Council.

"In a Socratic Seminar, the participants carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion," said Tina Keller, Westminster lecturer in education. "Good discussions occur when participants study the text closely in advance, listen actively, share their ideas and questions in response to the ideas and questions of others, and search for evidence in the text to support their ideas. The discussion is not about right answers; it is not a debate. Students are encouraged to think out loud and to exchange ideas openly while examining ideas in a rigorous, thoughtful, manner."

Keller presented information on the foundations of how to use Socratic Seminars. Keller earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Messiah College and a master's in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in children's literature from Pennsylvania State University.

Westminster students Kayla Magusiak and Katherine Schaefer-St. Pierre researched and presented the connections of using the seminars to the Pennsylvania Common Core standards. Then the students and Keller held a model Socratic Seminar for the council to see the process in action.

"Socratic Seminars were something completely new to me, something I learned for the first time at Westminster," Magusiak said. "I believe it is such a great tool to use in the classroom that I can't wait to use it one day in my own classroom. Presenting in front of the area teachers was such an honor, I am so glad I was chosen to be there. Teachers learn and become more experienced from two things: being in the classroom and advice from fellow teachers. I learned so much that I can't fully express it."

Magusiak, a sophomore early childhood/special education major, is a daughter of Robert and Cheri Walker of West Pittsburg and a graduate of New Castle High School.

"Not only was it an amazing opportunity to speak with local teachers about their profession, but also to teach and advocate for an outstanding tool in the classroom, Socratic Seminars," Schaefer-St. Pierre said.

Schaefer-St. Pierre, a freshman English major and secondary education minor, is a daughter of Luon St. Pierre and a graduate of Mercer Area High School.

"The purpose of the Butler Lawrence Mercer Reading Council is to help improve reading programs for children and adults," said council member Nancy Blaskewicz. "Our programs give teachers information they can use in their classrooms. Members also receive the Pennsylvania Reads Journal twice a year. The journal provides additional ideas for teachers to use."

Contact Blaskewicz at blaskewicz@wilmington.k12.pa.us for additional information on the Butler Lawrence Mercer Reading Council.

The mission of the Department of Education at Westminster College is to prepare early childhood/special education and secondary teachers who are distinguished by their subject matter knowledge, interpersonal capacities, pedagogical skills, and professional attitudes. Through study in general course work and professional education, students are encouraged to build a professional knowledge base. Meaningful classroom experiences, opportunities with children, and partnerships with schools and agencies enable students to make connections between academic work and the field of basic education.

Contact Keller at 724-946-6034 or email for additional information.

About Westminster College...
Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College ranks first in the nation as "Best College for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," according to Forbes.com. Westminster is a top-tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also honored as one of "The Best 378 Colleges" by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President's Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view "Advantage: Westminster" A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.