Tag Archives: Dewey

Democracy in the Classroom: the Importance of Environment and Attitude in Student-Led Seminars

David Koehler

Parallel session 2, Short paper 2.9

Short Abstract
This presentation builds upon previous empirical research into the effectiveness of student-led seminars for teaching critical theory. This paper presents reflections upon the success of this format, drawing upon the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Carl Rogers to explain how and why this format is successful.

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Detailed Outline
This presentation builds upon previous empirical research into the effectiveness of student-led seminars for teaching critical theory, which used focus groups to compliment the standard module evaluation questionnaires. In the previous research, feedback showed that creating a democratic learning situation helped students to engage with difficult theoretical texts. Students at Coventry University were asked to give 10 minute introductory presentations and then participate in a 40 minute group discussion as part of a second-year Democracy and the Media module.

The current phase of this research includes subsequent experiences at Birmingham University leading seminars on Modern Social Theory and Global Sociology. Here a slightly different format was used where students break into small discussion groups for 25 minutes, then present the results of their discussion to the rest of the class, and finally a plenary discussion is held with the class as a whole. Again, student feedback has shown that this student-led format is a successful way to help students engage with difficult texts.

This paper briefly presents the results of these experiences and reflects upon the success of this format, drawing upon the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Carl Rogers. John Dewey is useful for drawing attention to the role of the environment in creating a successful learning situation, and Carl Rogers draws our attention to the importance of a teacher-facilitators attitude in fostering a positive relationship with students. This paper will argue that these aspects of teaching are often underplayed, yet are crucial in the success of creating a democratic classroom, which is arguably the principle for student-led learning.