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Teacher and students’ interaction in Socratic Seminar
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Another research written by Francesco (2014) on the influence of Socratic
Seminar on leadership skills. The researcher used a variety of instruments
(survey, video recordings, and tests) to affirm the results which were that
students can improve their leadership skills after engaging in Socratic seminars.
When it comes to applying this technique to language teaching, however,
there is not nearly as much research upon which to build. The previous research
was conducted by Melia Andryani, student of Tanjungpura University who used
Socratic seminar to improve students’ speaking skill on hortatory exposition
text. She found that the use of the seminar had a positive effect on students’
speaking performance. However, the writer of this study used oral test as the
only one instrument to collect data, which might not guarantee the reliability of
The results of the previous studies show that the use of Socratic Seminar
has a positive effect on students’ academic development and language skill.
There is, however, little research touching upon the use of the technique in
teaching speaking skills. The previous studies conducted to explore the
effectiveness of the technique had not made clear the interaction process in
Socratic Seminar, how it is perceived by the students. Moreover, previous
studies did not focus the implementation of the technique on English-majored
These study results would encourage more researchers to conduct studies
to find out new discoveries. To the best of the researcher’s knowledge, in
Vietnam, there has not been any research on the use of Socratic seminar in
teaching field. The only research related to Socratic questioning was “The
casebook and Socratic methods in the United States legal education” written by
Truong Hai Ha (2011), University of Languages and International Studies,
which introduces the use of Socratic method in law teaching in the United
States, not in language teaching. Hence, the researcher decided to carry out this
study to explore the effectiveness of using Socratic seminar by figuring out the
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students’ perspectives of Faculty of Foreign Languages at Hanoi Pedagogical
6. Action research
Action research is one of the most popular methods for teachers to
develop their academic career. It helps them to improve the quality of the
lessons, and then students’ learning can be developed. Cohen and Manion
(1994) define action research (AR) as ‘a small-scale intervention in the
functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such an
intervention’. Action research is designed to bridge the gap between research
and practice (Somekh 1995). Action research is the process of systematic
collection and analysis of data in order to make changes and improvement or
solve problems (Wallace, 1998, p. 1 and Coles & Quirke, 2001, p. 14). This
definition seems to be in line with Borg (2010)’s definition, he states that action
research is a form of practitioner research which is characterized by particular
procedures, which broadly involve the introduction and evaluation of new
practices, typically through a number of cycles. Similarly, action research is
defined as “taking a self-reflective, critical and systematic approach to exploring
your own teaching contexts.” (Burns, 2010)
6.2 Characteristics of action research
Hult and Lennung (1980) and McKernan (1991) suggest that action
makes for practical problem-solving as well as expanding scientific
enhances the competencies of participants
is undertaken directly in situ
uses feedback from data in an ongoing cyclical process
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seeks to understand particular complex social situations
seeks to understand the process of change within social systems
focuses on those problems that are of immediate concern to
frequently uses case study
tends to avoid the paradigm of research that isolates and controls
is formative, such that the definition of the problem, the aims and
methodology may alter during the process of action research
includes evaluation and reflection
is methodologically eclectic
contributes to a science of education
strives to render the research usable and shareable by participants
is dialogical and celebrates discourse
has a critical purpose in some forms
strives to be emancipatory
6.3 Steps in action research
According to Kemmis and McTaggart (1988), action research typically
involves four broad phases in a cycle of research. The first cycle may become a
continuing, or iterative, spiral of cycles which recur until the action researcher
has achieved a satisfactory outcome and feels it is time to stop.
In this phase you identify a problem or issue and develop a plan of action
in order to bring about improvements in a specific area of the research context.
This is a forward-looking phase where you consider: i) what kind of
investigation is possible within the realities and constraints of your teaching
situation; and ii) what potential improvements you think are possible.
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The plan is a carefully considered one which involves some deliberate
interventions into your teaching situation that you put into action over an agreed
period of time. The interventions are ‘critically informed’ as you question your
assumptions about the current situation and plan new and alternative ways of
This phase involves you in observing systematically the effects of the
action and documenting the context, actions and opinions of those involved. It is
a data collection phase where you use ‘open-eyed’ and ‘open-minded’ tools to
collect information about what is happening.
At this point, you reflect on, evaluate and describe the effects of the action
in order to make sense of what has happened and to understand the issue you
have explored more clearly. You may decide to do further cycles of AR to
improve the situation even more, or to share the ‘story’ of your research with
others as part of your ongoing professional development.
(Adapted from Kemmis & McTaggart, 1988, pp. 11–14)
The Kemmis & Mc Taggart’s model has been considered inflexible by
some authors. McNiff (1988), for instance, sees it as “prescriptive”. She would
like to see a more flexible model which allows the researchers to be more
creative. Ebbutt (1985) argues that AR cycles should be successive and open,
and allow for as much feedback and interaction between the cycles as possible.
Despite being criticized for its rigidity, Kemmis and McTaggart’s model is
probably the most popular one. Therefore, the researcher decided to use the
model as a useful way in doing this research.
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Figure 1. Cyclical AR model based on Kemmis and McTaggart (1988)
6.4 Rationale for choosing action research
As stated earlier, action research is the process of systematic
collection and analysis of data in order to make changes and improvement or
solve problems (Wallace, 1998 and Coles & Quirke, 2001). In my opinion,
action research is the most appropriate method to make changes and
improvement in the current state of education. Action research helps teachers to
identify the problems and work out the solutions to them. Moreover, action
research aims at changing things (Nunan, 1992, p.17), which allows teachers to
change their situation of teaching and students’ learning.
This chapter reviewed the literature concerned with the introduction of
Socratic Seminar, the use of it in education, how it is linked to speaking
teaching. The review indicated that the use of Socratic Seminar in language
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teaching in Vietnam is still a new area which inspires the researcher to carry out
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