At Doon School, they’re spouting Socratic dialogues

  • HTEducation Correspondent, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2015 21:57 IST

So, it’s a very interesting summer at Doon School, where young students from all over the country are being given a crash course in Socratic dialogues and learning about leadership through motivational lectures, outdoor activity and adventure sports.

Designed and implemented in collaboration with Aspire, a provider of youth leadership and employability courses for young people, the programme has started on June 1 and will end on June 15 at the school’s beautiful estate in Dehradun.

One critical element of the programme is social service and social responsibility, and their relationship with leadership. The programme uses powerful multiple pedagogies, all based on readings and case studies, to encourage self-reflection, discussion and debate.

Talking about the programme, Dr. Peter McLaughlin, the school headmaster, says, the students are being familiarised with text-based Socratic dialogues, reading, reflecting and conducting discussions on a series of thought provoking readings around the issues of leadership such as The Challenge of Leadership; The Promise of Leadership; The Good Society; The Possibility of Heroism; and The Meaning of Life.

Days have been marked for adventure sports such as trekking, leadership and team building games and social service projects. An academic perspective and understanding of leadership is also provided. Written and verbal communication skills training includes activities such as public speaking which will give students an experience of combining quality and quantity of expression in a structured format in front of an audience. The students will also prepare a play on values-based leadership to “experience’ the leadership predicament. They’ll learn more about positive attitude and self confidence, motivating self and others, resolving conflict and dealing with stress, and becoming more emotionally intelligent.

Yoga session at a Doon school summer camp. Young students from all over the country are being given a crash course in Socratic dialogues and learning about leadership through motivational lectures, outdoor activity and adventure sports.

The summer camp participants say they find themselves improved. Prakriti Singh of Jamshedpur, who attended the programme last year, says “I was surprised by myself and my abilities. I was surprised by how little I can survive on and learnt how to use my resources properly...”

Social service and social responsibility is an essential component of the Summer at Doon programme. “Students will be involved in a range of projects to do with schools and other organisations, to sensitise them to various social issues, and expose them to an environment where there is a scarcity of basic requirements, inequities and hardships in life. This will also provide a relevant and necessary case study for all students to learn how leadership is required to manage and solve the manifold problems which exist in nations around the world,” McLaughlin says. Counselling sessions will be personalized with counsellors quizzing the students on their experiences, problems, progress and ongoing understanding, as well as test-based analysis.

The parents of Gauri Bora, another camp participant, said “Gauri made wonderful friends and a lifetime of memories to cherish. Thank you for making her a much more confident and better version of herself.”

McLaughlin feels this is a unique programme as it sets the learning about leadership in an intellectual, historical and practical context that is relevant to every young person as they approach applying to university and college, the world of work and as ethical citizens. “It provides students an opportunity to explore the choices leaders make, to understand the convictions and influencing styles supporting them, and to develop their own conclusions and influencing styles through activities that encourage dialogue and action. Most importantly, it promotes in boys and girls a greater ethical and personal moral compass with respect to self, family, society, business, environment and their country.”

Where outcomes go, as part of the leadership programme, students will be required to commit to a project after they return from the Summer School, which could be in the form of a school, college or community level project in the area of their passion. The project must have an impact on the target audience and improve the status quo. It should involve the students to commit some of their time, individually or in a group, directly to the project. The project must help the student to make the transition from success to significance.

Last year’s participant Ojasvi Khanna's parents agree, saying, “A few days back, when she (Ojasvi) saw the picture of the completed bottle house she felt so proud and happy. Their hard work under the sun has not gone to waste and the objective of providing housing to the underprivileged has been finally achieved. A sense of achievement and confidence could be felt.”

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