What is Socratic Method? And how to use it?

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Critical thinking is frequently encouraged using the Socratic Method. It focuses on giving students more questions than answers and encourages subject-specific research. The ideal response to a question should not be a conclusion, but rather the start of more investigation and study.

Before class, instructors should prepare some questions to ask students. In order to help students learn how to digest information, instructors should have them think about how they respond to and rationalise certain issues. The Socratic Method should also encourage cooperation and open-mindedness rather than argument.

What is Socratic Method?

From the Greek philosopher Socrates came what is now known as the Socratic method. Deepening his understanding of his students’ perspectives, he would ask probing questions until inconsistencies were revealed. This line of inquiry was also utilised by Socrates to get his audience to question received wisdom and consider alternatives to the status quo.

The Socratic approach is widely employed in modern medical and legal education to help students grasp complex ideas and principles. The Socratic approach allows instructors to ask their students questions in a number of different formats. In practise, though, the questions tend to fall on opposing extremes of a range.

For instance, a professor might randomly select a student and quiz them during the entire class period (rapid-fire). The final objective is to confuse the student and introduce inconsistencies into their case.

On the other hand, a professor might pick a group of students and lead a discussion on legal theories. Instead of using the Socratic method to intimidate students, this strategy uses it to promote collaborative learning.

Regardless of the path used, the investigation starts with the same fundamental identifying questions:

  • Those involved
  • The case’s circumstances
  • The problems
  • The position of procedure
  • The choice
  • The justification behind this choice

The questions will get trickier as they go along and frequently demand the student(s) to compare the present case to ones they may have studied earlier.

Socratic Method use: An example

The first step in this style of lecture is for the teacher to randomly select a student (or a small number of students) and have them summarise the case study they were required to read for the previous class. The student(s) will be tested on their ability to recite a concise overview of the case in question, including the facts, the issues, and the court’s holding and explanation.

Read more: Classroom Management: What Is It? And How Best Achieve It?

The lecturer may pose further inquiries based on the responses received. The point of these inquiries is to have the student thinking about the various potential counterarguments to their position. Furthermore, the professor may pose questions designed to help students see the many possible perspectives on an issue.

Then, the student(s) could be polled on whether or not they think the ruling was correct. They will usually be questioned further about their rationale. In addition, instructors may speculate on other information that could alter the outcome of the case. However, the student or students will also be expected to apply both the court’s reasoning and their own critical thinking to the novel set of circumstances.

Socratic Method: Modern way to use it

In contrast to its historical incarnation, modern applications of the Socratic Method place less emphasis on students’ responses. Instead, it is structured around a series of questions meant to guide pupils to a certain concept. Instructors may keep their classes interested and involved in the conversation by setting out the questions in this way.

In addition, by asking questions that students can relate to, educators can create an environment where kids are actively engaged in learning rather than merely reciting answers that they will quickly forget.

The importance of Socratic Method

Three primary factors account for the Socratic approach’s continued popularity.

  • It’s a great way to hone analytical abilities.
  • It trains the brains of the students to process information rapidly.
  • It’s a great motivator for students to get ready and pay attention.

The Socratic approach teaches students to think critically by helping them see when an argument has holes in it. Knowing the flaws in an argument allows for more advanced planning. As such, it helps students develop the ability to think on their feet and reply rapidly to inquiries, much like they could encounter in court. Students learn responsibility when they are constantly called upon to be on the ball.

Read more: IELTS Academic Reading Test Format and Description

Students interested in pursuing careers in areas of law that need greater “on-your-feet” thinking will benefit from the Socratic approach of instruction. Claims and negotiations are two such examples.

Students’ curiosity is piqued by the Socratic method as well. It inspires children to consider how things may be different by getting them to think in new ways about diverse topics. And it transforms education from a spectator sport to an active endeavour.

Merits and Demerits

The Socratic approach has several benefits, including:

  • Developing listening and active learning abilities
  • Development of critical thinking abilities
  • Understanding how to overcome challenges and what to do when they arise
  • Learning how to do in-depth analysis of topics

The Socratic Method has drawbacks, including:

  • Easy failure rate without students’ involvement.
  • Public speaking anxiety is typical.
  • When an instructor is chatting with a particular student, they risk losing the attention of the class.
  • Sometimes there is no correct response (some students dislike this).
  • Sometimes it’s challenging to manage the numerous answers to a single inquiry.

Tips for using the Socratic Method

  1. Students must be ready to participate in class discussions. This implies that they will have to work hard to learn the content well enough to participate. You could want to give them a pre-class homework to help them prepare.
  2. Keep in mind that the conversation should guide the way through the content as you develop questions for your class. Your questions are a guide, providing you with important teaching ideas to cover in your lesson, but they are not mandatory. This will enable you to create a learning environment that is focused on the needs of the students.
  3. Ensure that your queries are sufficiently open-ended to encourage research. Good questions let students investigate various viewpoints. Students should benefit from this strategy as they examine other opinions and perspectives from their peers and develop perspective. Instead of having a single response for every question, there should be dialogue. In the event that further discussion is required, it might be useful to have prepared follow-up questions.
  4. Be rational! Work through concepts and potential solutions. More learning typically results from the time spent defending false notions than from merely articulating the truth. Instead of merely imparting knowledge, you are guiding students’ mental processes and teaching them how to analyse the subject.
  5. Make notes during the talk to refer back to before a test or quiz. With memory signals from the conversation fresh in their minds, students will have an easier time recalling the material at a later time. When you review the notes you took of their conversation with them, you may help them form these associations.

You’ll know you’re doing a good job of implementing this approach if students actively participate in class discussions, ask questions or offer suggestions without being prompted, and, most importantly, recognise when they’ve made mistakes in their understanding. This indicates that you have succeeded in making your community a welcoming place for honest communication.

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