Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mortimer Adler, Plato, and Conversational Learning

The Great Books Honor College has produced an excellent discussion on conversational learning.
See the link below.


The conversation is based on two readings: Mortimer J. Adler's How to Speak, How to Listen and Plato's Republic. I do not know if the group read the whole of Adler's book or just parts. I think they read Book VII in Plato's Republic. The moderator, Dr. Redwing, does a great job in leading the discussion. The participants of this seminar do a great job in wrestling with the texts. This discussion is a great example on how to lead and participate in conversational learning.

Adler speaks of conversational learning in chapter thirteen of his book. He states that there are three types of teaching: didactic, Socratic, and coaching. The participants discuss these different types of teaching extensively in the discussion. They ask the question, when should Socratic teaching be done and how should it be done? It seems that didactic teaching should be done in the beginning to learn the grammar of the discipline. Coach is used to help the student develop the arts of learning. "The Socratic method of teaching is by asking and by discussion--facilitates the kind of learning that is an enlargement of the understanding and basic ideas and values" (168). The seminar requires Socratic teaching.

Adler makes some good points in this chapter. One of my favorite is : "I also know that the seminar kind of teaching and learning makes the most fruitful contribution to the continued growth of the mind" (168). I agree with Adler on this point. The seminar type of learning through using the Socratic method of questioning and answering provides the best means of continuing learning as an adult. Philosophy, literature and theology provides some of the best disciplines for pursuing this kind of learning.

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