The Socratic Questioning Technique
The Socratic approach to questioning is based on the practice of disciplined, thoughtful dialogue. Socrates, the early Greek philosopher/teacher, believed that disciplined practice of thoughtful questioning enabled the learner to examine ideas logically and to determine the validity of those ideas. In this technique, the teacher professes ignorance of the topic in order to engage in dialogue with the learners. With this “acting dumb,” the learner develops the fullest possible knowledge about the topic.
The Socratic Questioning technique is an effective way to explore ideas in depth. It can be used at all levels and is a helpful tool for all teachers. It can be used at different points within a project. By using Socratic Questioning, teachers promote independent thinking in their learners and give them ownership of what they are learning. Higher-level thinking skills are present while learners think, discuss, debate, evaluate, and analyze content through their own thinking and the thinking of those around them. These types of questions may take some practice on both the teacher and learners’ part since it may be a whole new approach.
Tips for Using Socratic Questioning:
- Plan significant questions that provide meaning and direction to the dialogue
- Use wait time: Allow at least thirty seconds for learners to respond
- Follow up on learners’ responses
- Ask probing questions
- Periodically summarize in writing key points that have been discussed
- Draw as many learners as possible into the discussion
- Let learners discover knowledge on their own through the probing questions the teacher poses
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