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Reflections on a Socratic approach to engagement

Mike Bagshaw (Senior Lecturer, based at Business School, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to enhance involvement in the learning process in order that students are active co-creators in their learning, developing their capability for proactive change.


Action inquiry (Torbert, 2004). This involves simultaneously conducting action and inquiry in a systematic way.


Engagement is a “contact sport” in which complex problems can only be solved by the development of social collaboration where the authors are able to share knowledge and assumptions and co-create together. This requires that groups go through a development process.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation is the bias and social influence of the tutor/trainer in the process of developing deeper dialogue. Research needs to explore how the “leader” is able to limit their own bias whilst facilitating development through the stages of dialogue development.

Practical implications

Most training and teaching assumes that the teacher/trainer has expertise to pass on. This implies that they have the answer to problems being explored. Increasingly the authors need to facilitate the collective creativity of groups to solve complex problems for which the facilitator does not have the answer. This requires a different mindset and “felt-sense”.

Social implications

To solve complex problems the authors need to develop collective communication capacities, and shift from a focus on personal ego to thinking together in a spirit of learning and inquiry.


To date there has been little reported that helps facilitators in education and training practically to develop the facilitative and design skills to create learning spaces where groups think together in a non-defensive and generative way. This paper is a step in that direction.



Bagshaw, M. (2014), "Reflections on a Socratic approach to engagement", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 No. 7, pp. 357-363.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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