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Learning Philosophy

A first principles approach to superior experiences and outcomes.

Where modernity and classical wisdom collide.

The world is changing fast. Many of our current education methods and systems are not preparing students for the 21st Century. At Parlay Seminars, we believe in reviving classical methods for the modern era. A learning Renaissance, if you will.

For over 2,000 years, we have understood the power of "Socratic Seminars" in education, and in life. Truth-seeking discussions should lie at the heart of our classrooms, politics, workplaces, media, and even at our dinner tables. They don't anymore, but we're bringing them back.

At Parlay Seminars, we combine the classical wisdom of student-driven discussions with the power of modern technology to create meaningful, engaging, and affordable learning experiences that prepare young people for success and fulfillment in their lives.

Our Philosophy
Why learn through discussions?

When we set out to build Parlay, we asked ourselves… “What actually works in education? How do we maximize learning outcomes relative to the time and effort we put into teaching and learning? Which instructional methods best prepare young people for success in higher education and life beyond?” We landed on discussions. Here’s why.

1. Discussions make us smarter.

Discussions have a 2x impact on student achievement compared to traditional teaching strategies. This data comes from Professor John Hattie’s work on Visible Learning - the most comprehensive meta-analysis of “what actually works in education” ever conducted. Learn more.

2. Discussions build future skills.

The A.I. revolution is upon us. In the last 40 years, non-routine cognitive work has gone from 25% of the total labor force to over 60%. This change is directly correlated with the rise in automation in our economy. Activities that are routine can and will be automated in the future.


The skills that young people need to thrive in non-routine cognitive environments are the ones that make us uniquely human: 


- complex problem solving

- critical thinking and analysis

- oral and written communication

- collaboration and negotiation


These are the skills that are learned through student-driven discussions.

3. Discussions teach goodness.

Functioning democracy depends on our collective willingness to seek truth, embrace nuance, and understand complex issues from different viewpoints.


Individuals and communities with different perspectives are increasingly isolated in so-called “echo chambers”. Constructive and informed dialogue is deteriorating, and society is polarizing as a result.


It is imperative that we encourage the next generation to listen, empathize, reflect and compromise. We must to teach them to have and both an open mind and a high burden of proof before they head out into the world. Discussions achieve this.

“Conflicting doctrines, instead of being one true and the other false, share the truth between them.” - John Stuart Mill

Why read classic novels?

The "Great Books" are called that for a reason. They contain eternal themes, questions, and insights that are worthy of our continued exploration. They teach us things about the human condition that are universal. They are always relevant, even if they aren't "current". 

At Parlay Seminars, we believe it's important to maintain the tradition of reading classic literature, to connect its key themes and ideas to the lives of our students, and to the events and ideas shaping our world.

When we get this right, students develop a philosophical and literary perspective which they take with them out into the world. Wherever they go in their lives and their careers, this is essential.

Why Literature?
How does Parlay's technology help?

We’ve spent the past 8 years working with teachers and students to design and build a suite of instructional tools that make discussions more substantive, inclusive, and data-driven. We didn’t go looking for ‘suitable’ tools to piece together our desired learning environment; we built the tools around the discussion-based learning experience that we know works. 

1. Build in best-practices. 

At every stage of a Parlay seminar, student participation revolves around research-backed strategies for developing critical thinking and communication skills. 


- Higher-order thinking questions

- Guided feedback prompts
- Scaffolded participation

- Modelling contributions

- Data-driven reflections  

- Personalized feedback

- and so much more!

Give Everyone A Voice
Engagement Data
2. Empower all voices.

The loudest idea isn’t often the best idea. It’s essential that we all gain from listening to and critiquing a wide of perspectives from around the table. 


Every Parlay activity is designed to ensure that all students have an equal voice, and that they are motivated to encourage their peers to contribute.

3. Make measurement easy.

Timely and specific feedback and assessment is critical for learner development in any learning environment.

Parlay automatically aggregates engagement data for every student across all discussion activities. Using this data makes it easy for facilitators to accurately give feedback on individual student participation. It also makes it easy to track the growth of an individual over time. After all, continuous improvement is the name of the game.

Participation Metrics
Interested in joining?

Click below to browse and register for our upcoming seminar cohorts.

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