The Socratic Method
Definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: www.wikipedia.org
Socratic method (or method of elenchos or Socratic debate) is a dialectic method of inquiry, largely
applied to the examination of key moral concepts and first described by Plato in the Socratic Dialogues.
For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father and fountainhead for ethics or moral philosophy.
It is a form of philosophical enquiry.
It typically involves two speakers at any one time, with one leading the discussion and the other
agreeing to certain assumptions put forward for his acceptance or rejection.
The method is credited to Socrates, who began to engage in such discussion with his fellow Athenians after a visit to the Oracle of Delphi.
"A Socratic Dialogue can happen at any time between [two people] when they seek to answer a question [about something] answerable by
their own effort of reflection and thinking [starting] from the concrete [asking] all sorts of questions [until] the details of the example
are fleshed out [as] a kind of platform for reaching more general judgments".
The practice involves asking a series of questions surrounding a central issue, and answering questions of the others involved.
Generally this involves the defense of one point of view against another and is oppositional.
The best way to 'win' is to make the opponent contradict themselves in some way that proves the inquirer's own point.
Plato famously formalised the Socratic debate in prose - positing Socrates as one of the principal interlocutors - in some of his early
dialogues, such as Euthyphro or Theaetetus, and the method is most commonly found within the Socratic dialogues, which generally portray
Socrates engaging in the method and questioning his fellow citizens about moral and epistemological issues.
Lesson Plan Elements for Teachers in Classrooms
Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: www.wikipedia.org
A skillful teacher can teach students to think for themselves using this method.
This is the only classic method of teaching that was designed to create genuinely autonomous thinkers.
There are some crucial lesson plan elements to this form of teaching:
- The teacher and student must agree on the topic of instruction.
- The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher.
- The teacher and student must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than pre-conceived facts or beliefs.
- The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning or beliefs. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question that the students cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking about the classic errors in reasoning.
- If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher.
Since a discussion is not a dialogue, it is not a proper medium for the Socratic method.
However, it is helpful, if second best, if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion.
This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it
encourages the students to reason rather than appeal to authority.
More loosely, one can label any process of thorough-going questioning in a dialogue as an instance of the Socratic method.
(Adapted from Teaching Thinking - Philosophical Enquiry in the classroom by Robert Fisher (1998) Brunel University)
1: Questions that seek clarification:
Can you explain that…?
What do you mean by…?
Can you give me an example of…?
How does that help…?
Does anyone have a question…?
2: Questions that probe reasons and evidence.
Why do you think that…?
How do we know that…?
What are your reasons…?
Do you have evidence…?
Can you give me an example/counter-example…?
3. Questions that explore alternative views.
Can you put it another way…?
Re-stating a view
Is there another point of view…?
What if someone were to suggest that…?
What would someone who disagreed with you say…?
What id the difference between those views/ideas…?
4. Questions that test implications and consequences.
What follows from what you say…?
Does that fit with what we said earlier…?
What would be the consequences of that…?
Is there a general rule for that…?
How could you test to see if it were true…?
Testing the truth
5. Questions about the question/discussion.
Do you have a question about that…?
What kind of question is it…?
How does what was said help us…?
Where have we got to…?
Who can summarise so far…?
Are we any closer to answering the question…?
Coming to conclusions
Strategies to Extend Student Thinking
Remember 'wait time'
Provide at least three seconds (or more) of thinking time after a question and after a response
Allow individual thinking time, discussion with a partner, and then open up for class discussion
'Why?' 'Do you agree?' 'Can you elaborate?' 'Tell me more?' 'Can you give an example?'
Respond to student answers in a non-evaluative fashion
Ask for a summary to promote active listening
'Could you please summarise John's point?'
Survey the class
'How many people agree with the author's point of view?'
Allow for student calling
'Samina, will you please call on someone else to respond'
Play devil's advocate
Require students to define their reasoning against different points of view
Ask students to 'unpack their thinking'
'Describe how you arrived at your answer'
Call on students randomly
Avoid the pattern of only calling on those students with raised hands
Encourage student questioning
Let the students develop their own questions
Cue student responses
'There is not a single correct answer for this question. I want you to consider alternatives'
General Strategies for Cognitive Development
If you require information about any of these resources please contact:
Carol Ketley, Area Improvement Adviser
Tel: (01482) 392485
Angela Jones, Foundation Stage Strategy Manager
Tel: (01482) 392467
Sarah Smallwood, Improvement Officer (Primary)
Tel: (01482) 392469
John Seaman, Principal Improvement Adviser (Secondary)
Tel: (01482) 392410