Inner circles : a participatory action research study of lower SES females and the Socratic seminar in a secondary classroom.
Collaborative classroom practices have been shown to promote engagement of students within the secondary classroom. Female students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds do not traditionally demonstrate high levels of engagement within the classroom. The lower levels of engagement are attributed to external factors such as fear of judgment and the teacher’s unintentional, implicit bias. Traditional, lecture-based approaches within the classroom create a hierarchy of power that limits the engagement of students who are not among the cultural and economic majority. Socratic seminar as a practice allows teachers to incorporate student voice collaboratively to promote student input. This participatory action research (PAR) study aimed to explore Socratic seminars as means of empowerment for lower socioeconomic status female students within the secondary English classroom. This PAR study applied the existing frameworks of student voice as defined by Bell and Aldrige (2014), Mockler and Groundwater-Smith (2015), and Mitra (2018) to the concept of student engagement presented by Fielding (2004). The study utilized student voice and experience to analyze the Socratic seminar within an advanced secondary school English classroom and adapt the practice to be more equitable and engaging for all students. Through the personal accounts of four lower socioeconomic female students, this PAR study examined how Socratic seminars can serve as a means of equitable engagement through the development of teacher-student relationships, student feedback, and student agency. Findings within this PAR study illustrate how teacher-student relationships impact classroom dynamics and the importance of utilizing student voice to improve teaching practices. The results of this study provided a means for incorporating PAR within the teacher’s curriculum to strengthen teacher-student relationships and collaborative means of student empowerment, voice, and equity within the classroom. The use of Socratic seminars among low SES female students allows for the diminished focus on classroom hierarchies and encourages collaboration.