Lesson 1: An Introduction to Mimetic and Socratic Teaching

In this introductory session, Andrew Kern describes what drew him into the renewal of classical education, defines classical education, and presents an overview of two specific modes of teaching: mimetic teaching and Socratic teaching.

Recommended Reading

See Dr. Christopher Perrin’s blog articles on principles of pedagogy on InsideClassicalEd.com.

Outline of Session

Introduction to Mimetic and Socratic Teaching


 

  1. Andrew describes what brought him to the renewal of classical and Christian education.
  2. What is classical education? Classical education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty, by means of the seven liberal arts, so that a student is better able to know Christ and enjoy him forever.
  3. Introduction and overview of Mimetic Teaching, having 5 stages:
    1. Preparation
    2. Presentation of a type
    3. Comparison of types
    4. Expression
    5. Embodiment
  4. Introduction and overview of Socratic Teaching, having 2 stages:
    1. The ironic stage
    2. The maieutic stage (birth-giving, “midwifery” stage)
  5. These represent two modes of teaching, that each share 4 faculties:
    1. Attentiveness
    2. Memory
    3. Imitation
    4. Harmony
Image: The Seven Liberal "Liberating" Arts

In this introductory lecture, Andrew describes the role of the seven liberal—or “liberating”—arts. Can you identify all seven of the liberal arts in the illustration below? Who (or what) is in the middle?

The image is titled “Philosophy at the Center of the Seven Liberal Arts,” c. 12th century, the Hortus Deliciarum (Garden of Delights). View a translation of the Latin phrases in this illustration here.

Discussion Questions
  • What do you think about the way Andrew was drawn into the renewal of classical education?
  • Reflect on the ways in which you were drawn into the renewal of classical education. Are there ways in which you, like Andrew, were exposed to principles of classical pedagogy before you were able to recognize them as such? If you are in a group, share this narrative with your colleagues.
  • What do you think of Andrew’s definition of classical education? In what ways do you find it helpful? Can you repeat or summarize his definition?
  • What do you think of Andrew’s description of the liberal arts as “liberating” arts? What does he mean by “liberating” arts?
  • After hearing Andrew describe the mimetic mode of teaching, do you find that in some ways you do in fact teach this way? Can you recall being taught this way?
  • After hearing Andrew describe Socratic teaching, do you find that in some ways you do, in fact, teach this way? Can you recall being taught this way?
  • Reflect on Andrew’s description of harmony as a faculty of learning—as a yearning for harmony and the resolving of discord.

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