Marine Noise Pollution Silent Socratic Dialogue

This page authored by Dave Kobilka, based on the Silent Socratic Dialogue technique as described by Bill Taylor, Faculty, History, Oakton Community College (IL).
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In this Oceanography activity, students learn about the history of marine noise pollution and its effects on marine life, particularly cetaceans. They begin with a lesson on how it began and how it affects whales (inhibits communication), and conclude with assigned readings about the US Navy's use of Low Frequency - Long Range Sonar. The activity culminates with a paired debate using the Silent Socratic Dialogue method.

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Learning Goals

In this activity students,
JUSTIFY thier point of view to another student, PERSUADE another student to agree with them, EXPLAIN thier position, CHALLENGES, and QUESTIONS their opponent's position.

Context for Use

Class Size: Suitable for larger classes-Students are twice paired in this activity and the pairing changes each time.

Time - Three full hours of class time, plus considerable outside reading

Equipment: A timer

Adaptability: This activity is adaptable for upper division classes however I think it would lose power if there were fewer than 20 or so students in the course. It is useful with large classes because it gets everyone talking and thinking and writing, with little pandemonium.

Description and Teaching Materials

The Silent Socratic Dialogue used in this activity is described at .

Step 1. Lecture presentation. I give a breif explanation and rundown of history of marine noise pollution. There are some good video scources on line that I sometimes use. Presently all are available on Youtube. Some weblinks I use to convey this story are: (NRDC video on whales and sonar) and (The US Navy's own website explaining the what and why of low-frequency long range sonar).

Step 2: Students are assigned to read the Navy and NRDC website.

Step 3: Eagles and Hawks. In this activity students are to make rounds discussing how they feel about this issue and learn how others feel. The conversation is directed but timed. They have 3 minutes to talk about it with one student, then have to switch to another student, and discuss it again. The idea is to hear more points of view, hear further insight, and gain a deeper understanding of the issue. The activity is called Eagles and Hawks because each student is either an eagle or a hawk, and eagles only talk with hawks. When the 3 minutes is up, either eagles "fly" or hawks "fly". In other words they switch to a new partner.

Final Step: Silent Socratic Dialogue. By this piont everyone is prepared to argue either side of the issue (pro-conservation at the expense of national security, or pro-low frequency long range sonar at the expense of the lives of marine animals). For this part, students are paired with someone who will argue the position opposite their own. The dialogue will begin with each side writing a statement about why their position is correct. Their partner will then write a response. Allow time for 3 or 4 switches and collect the responses for grading.

Teaching Notes and Tips

I have not yet done this activity completely. I have performed an activity on marine noise (lecture, video, assigned readings with follow-up exam questions), and a Silent Socratic Dialogue on another non-science topic.


I am developing rubric for this activity to assess individual performance against a standard.