Using Socratic Method in Your Classroom

14 min read
Using Socratic Method in Your Classroom

There has been a lot of debate as to which learning method instructors should adopt when teaching. Researchers and experts from all over the world have identified and determined numerous teaching methods to carry out classes. Using socratic method happens to be one of them. 

The Death Of Socrates, Socrates, Painting, Death, Legal

Students are also in need of simplified yet resourceful
that can help them speed up their learning process. Amidst all the learning methods, one of the key teaching tools involves using the Socratic Method in your classroom.

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, was the first person to come up with the concept. The philosopher was keen on transforming the education system in Greece and pushed for a uniform method that would cater to every individual’s learning needs. The technique slowly and gradually popularized around ancient Greek and was later adopted as a teaching practice. To help you identify the Socratic Method better, we have laid down a comprehensive guide for you. Let’s start by taking a look at the Socratic Method in detail.

Socrates once said, Do not take what I say as if I were merely playing, for you see the subject of our discussion- and on what subject should even a man of slight intelligence be more serious?-namely, what kind of life should one live.”

What is Socratic Method

According to Socrates, the Socratic Method is all about creating a dialogue between the students and the teachers. He identified that teaching using the conventional method is not appropriate for students and teachers alike. The Socratic Method dealt with augmentative dialogue and critical thinking, which were core principles for Socrates.

The method taught students to ask questions that would help expose contradictions in studies. And then, teachers would guide them towards a better and more focused approach to help them create ideas and build constructive thinking skills.

The method is now crucial in educational systems and is adopted by different educational institutes throughout the world. The method encouraged teachers to preach the facts they have learned throughout history and pass it on to their pupils.

A Socratic teacher is someone who focuses on students’ critical thinking rather than memorization. They focus on becoming a medium through which a person can learn and add to society as a whole. There is no need for lectures and rote learning since the entire focus is on guidance and enabling students to learn.

In the Socratic Method, questions are a prime tool. The main focus is to create a dialogue through the medium and ensure that teachers and students maintain it. Consequently, this builds their knowledge by forming important connections between what they know and what they learned. Both the student and teacher are responsible for adding to the discussion and expressing their thoughts, queries, and other concerns during the time.

The Socratic Method nurtures students’ growth through extensive learning and questioning. The teacher, along with a guide, also adopts the role of a participant to keep the discussion and questions going.

Using Socratic Method in Your Classroom

Socratic Method in Institutions

Many law colleges and educational institutes realized that teaching with the Socratic Method is essential to engage a large group of students for a discussion. It uses probing questions to reach the depths of a concept. The best thing about the Socratic Method is that the inquiry is open-ended and open for debate since there are no pre-determined results or statements before the discussion.

Moreover, teachers who use the Socratic Method don’t need to maintain a schedule or slides to teach the students. They see where the discussion leads to and how it flows. Now that we know what Socratic Method is let’s take a look at its important components.

Socratic Method in Institutions

Use of Questions in Socratic Classrooms

As we mentioned before, the Socratic methods primarily focus on questions more than anything. With the help of questions, participants in the study are able to determine and identify the moral obligations and values of their life. The Socratic practice avoids the use of mentioning plain facts or simply reciting the things they learned.

But rather, it uses questions of logic to invoke learning elements within the classroom. It is also seen as a collaborative approach by the teacher that engages students and motivates them to find their own approach to solve problems. While many teachers focus on objectivity, it is also important that they consider students’ thoughts on the topic. In this field of study, there is no proper citing of authorities.

Use of Questions in Socratic Classrooms

Essential Components when Using the Socratic Method

As we mentioned before, the Socratic Method emphasizes learning rather than cliché rote education, which does not nurture growth in learning. Below, you will find important factors that encourage the use of the Socratic Method in your classroom.

·         Focus on Moral Education and Values

In the Socratic Method, teachers focus on core aspects that require nurturing, such as morals and values. Oftentimes, we have seen the method used in the style of ad hominem. Instead of making arguments to convince people, the Socratic Methods focuses on diverting their attention towards specific participants involved in the discussions.

The ultimate goal of the Socratic Method is not to focus on the thoughts or the general perception of the world but to take into account the generalized worldview of each individual. The study prefers when it comes to expressing underlying beliefs and values rather than propositions and abstractions.

The Socratic Method includes components like the participants’ inquiry, beliefs, and value systems. Whenever these beliefs are challenged or refuted, it affects and ultimately harms the coherence of their belief system. Inspired by his teacher, Plato, Socrates focused on the fundamentals of learning, which emphasized how one can live and spend his life.

Focus on Moral Education and Values

·         Demonstrate Complexity and Difficulty

Another core principle in Socratic thought is that it demonstrates the complexity, difficulties, and uncertainty rather than only taking into account knowledge that is already known. The first step is to realize the complexity of the data and nature of the world and then incorporate the data into a coherent argument.

Since there is no need for a conclusion, facts, and other citations, the data can be subjective, which shows the level of complexity.

Demonstrate Complexity and Difficulty

6 Types of Socratic Questions

There are numerous types of Socratic questions that teachers will face during their practice. Let’s take a look at each one below and determine their meaning and examples.

6 Types of Socratic Questions

1.      Conceptual Clarification Questions

These types of questions encourage students to critically evaluate the learning material and reflect on the material in depth. Overall, it clarifies the thought process and ensures that students build rationality for the given topic. An example of this question can be, “Why did you say that?”

2.      Probing Assumptions

These types of questions ensure that the students are able to question and counter their own beliefs and values that their understanding is based on. An example of this question is, “Why do you choose to believe that?”

3. Probing Rationale, Reasons, and Evidence

Probing rationale questions assist the student in formulating an argument with the help of deeper research and analysis into the material. For instance, a teacher may ask, “On what basis or evidence are you making this statement?”

4.      Questioning Perspectives

Whenever a teacher questions the student’s viewpoints and perspectives, it paves the way towards new ways of going about the topic. By adopting this approach, teachers are able to preach that there is more than one way of thinking about a specific topic. A notable example includes “Was there any hidden messages the author was trying to portray in the text?”

Questioning Perspectives

5.      Probing Implications and Consequences

These types of questions help the student counter their own logic and arguments. The strategy stimulates their growth and enables them to adopt a decent learning pattern. The teachers can ask questions such as “what happens next?”

6.      Questions about the Question

Another core element of questioning in the Socratic Method is to reflect on questions themselves and carry out the learning process. It encourages students in the classroom to determine the overall progress of the discussion and derive important pointers from it. A common example of the question is “Can you elaborate or redefine your question?”

These questions are proven and may help the teacher determine the overall consensus within the classroom.

Approaches to Socratic Method

There are numerous approaches to adopting the

The Bootcamp Approach

This approach focuses on the professor asking questions after questions to the students. The professor keeps building on questions until students are unable to provide any more answers. It helps establish the teacher’s dominance in the classroom and shows the students that there are plenty of things to learn. This type of approach is not widely used today.

The Bootcamp Approach

The Accountability Approach

To ensure that students learn from notes, a teacher might start asking plenty of questions regarding the material.

The Thinking Approach

This approach closely resembles how Socrates interacted with his pupils. In this approach, the class teacher usually asks a few students to answer questions. The questions are often open-ended or hypothetical questions and may require long answers or explanations.

Tips for Using Socratic Method in your Classroom

As a teacher, you need a few tips to incorporate the Socratic Method in your classroom. Below are a few tips to help you get started.

The Thinking Approach

1.      Lay out the Basic Guidelines

The first step for a teacher is to focus on the basics and set down conversational guidelines. A teacher can start by learning a student’s name to keep the classroom engaged throughout the discussion.

A teacher will need to explain how practicing the Socratic Method will help them achieve a better outcome. The teacher should also focus on the aspects such as how their focus should be on the core principles of their life and values.

2.      Be Comfortable with the Silence

Critical thinking may require silence for some time, and as a teacher, you should grow comfortable with it. A constant discussion will lead to nowhere; therefore, you need to maintain silence to grasp information in and learn from it.

3.      Welcome New Ideas and Follow-up Questions

With the help of follow-up questions, students will be able to formulate critical thinking skills. Moreover, as a teacher, you must always be open to learning new things as well. Cherish and welcome new ideas that students pitch to you. As the teacher welcomes new ideas, they can get to know different points of view and learn something new.

Welcome New Ideas and Follow-up Questions

4.      Find an Optimum Place for Discussions

The environment in which a teacher talks to students also plays an important role in what they learn. Ensure that you’re speaking in an open room with proper ventilation and comfortable seats. If the students are not comfortable, they may not be able to formulate proper arguments or engage in the discussions.

5.      Applicable for All

The Socratic Method provides a technique that teachers can apply to students of any age. Be it teenagers or seniors graduating; a teacher can engage everyone through this technique. It’s useful to engage both small and large groups.

Final Thoughts

It is evident that the Socratic Method is popular in educational institutes today and continues to inspire teachers and students around the globe. But as with other teaching techniques, it does not come without complications.

There are a few aspects that you must take into account. For instance, some of the students might be unable to speak up and engage in conversations due to a fear of speaking in public.

Final Thoughts

Some students can also lose interest if the professor adopts a focused approach to teaching. Moreover, there are no right answers to any questions, which can be frustrating for the students.