Borger’s seminar format is a graded discussion based on the formal concept of  Socratic Seminars:

The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions.  Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.  They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly. (Israel 89)*

Students are expected to critically engage a text or texts via reflective discussion.  Only one student at a time speaks. Seminary generally lasts 2-3 days depending on the class and topic.

We can attack ideas in seminar, but not each other.  The goal is not to make others agree with your ideas – in fact, no one has to agree with anyone else.  The goal is to complicate the ways in which we think about ideas, texts, the world around us, etc.

Grading Rubric:

A: Student speaks at least 3 times in the course of seminar; student listens and is positively engaged in the process. Note: students who speak 3 times but distract or are disrespectful to the process will earn a C or less for seminar.  Just because you’ve spoken does not mean you stop listening and thinking.

B: Students speaks fewer than 3 times but submits supplementary notes; student listens and doesn’t distract.

C: Student does not speak aloud but submits thorough notes on 3-5 thoughts from seminar; student listens and doesn’t distract.

D: Student doesn’t speak or submits fewer than 3-5 thoughtful notes from seminar; student sleeps, does homework, has side conversations, is relatively disengaged from the process

1/2 credit – 0 (zero):  Student turns in no notes, is disengaged, distracted, rude, or repetitively disruptive / distracting to the process.


What is Socratic Seminar? from Paideia Active Learning

Socratic Seminars from Read, Write, Think

Socratic Seminar handout from Northwest  Association for Biomedical Research

*Israel, Elfie.  “Examining Multiple Perspectives in Literature.”  In Inquiry and the Literary Text: Constructing Discussions n the English Classroom.  James Holden and John S. Schmit, eds.  Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002.