Why Is Socratic Questioning Technique Important In Teaching?

February15, 2018
by admin
15 min read

Socrates, the early Greek philosopher, and teacher believed that Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions. Questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues. Answers on the other hand, often signal full stop in thought.

Read the conversation below to understand it better.


Teacher: What is happening to our global climate?

Stan: It’s getting warmer.

Teacher:  How do you know it’s getting warmer? What evidence do you have to support your answer?

Stan: It’s in the news all of the time. They are always saying that it’s not as cold as it used to be. We have all of these record heat days.

Teacher: Has anyone else heard of this kind of news?

Denise: Yeah. I have read about it in the newspaper. They call it global warming, I think.

Teacher: Are you saying that you learned about global warming from newscasters? Are you assuming they know that global warming is occurring?

Heidi: I heard it too. It’s terrible. The ice caps in the Arctic are melting. The animals are losing their homes. I think the newscasters hear it from the scientists that are studying the issue.

Teacher: If that is the case and the scientists are telling the newscasters, how do the scientists know?

Chris: They have instruments to measure climate. They conduct research that measures the Earth’s temperature.

Teacher: How long do you think scientists have been doing this?

Grant: Probably 100 years.

Candace: Maybe a little more than that.

Teacher: Actually, it’s been studied for about 140 years. Since about 1860.

Heidi: We were close.

Teacher: Yes. How did you know that?

Grant: I just figured that seems like when instruments were available and scientists had the means to measure climate like that.

Teacher: So, looking at the last 100 year’s climate on this graph, what can we say about the earth’s climate?

Raja: The 20th century has become much warmer than previous centuries.

Teacher: Can we hypothesize why?

Raja: What are you assuming when you say that pollution is the cause Teacher:

One word: pollution.for the temperatures to rise?

Heidi: Carbon dioxide from cars causes pollution and chemicals from factories.

Frank: Hairspray causes dangerous chemicals to get into the atmosphere.

Teacher: Okay. Let’s take a minute to review what we’ve discussed so far.  

Socratic discussion wherein students’ thought is elicited and probed, allows students to develop and evaluate their thinking by making it explicit. By encouraging students to slow their thinking down and elaborate on it, Socratic discussions gives students the opportunity to develop and test their ideas- the beliefs they have spontaneously formed and those they learn in school. Thus, students can synthesize their beliefs into a more coherent and betterdeveloped perspective.

Socratic questioning requires teachers to take seriously and wonder about what students say and think: what they mean, its significance to them, its relationship to other beliefs, how it can be tested, to what extent and in what way it is true or makes sense. Teachers who wonder about the meaning and truth of students’ statements can translate curiosity into probing questions. By wondering aloud, teachers simultaneously convey interest in and respect for student thought, and model analytical moves for students. Fruitful Socratic discussion infects students with the same curiosity about the meaning and truth of what they think, hear and read and gives students the clear message that they are expected to think and to take everyone else’s beliefs seriously. Socratic questioning is based on the idea that all thinking has a logic or structure, that any one statement only partially reveals the thinking underlying it, expressing no more than a tiny piece of the system of interconnected beliefs of which it is a part.

Socratic Questioning Steps:

  1. Pre-plan the discussion questions
  2. Allow at least thirty seconds for students to respond
  3. Follow up on students’ responses
  4. Ask probing questions
  5. Periodically summarize, in writing, key points that have been discussed
  6. Draw as many students as possible into the discussion
  7. Let students discover knowledge on their own through the probing questions the teacher poses

Socratic questioning has many benefits. It raises basic issues, probes beneath the surface of things, pursues problematic areas of thought. It helps students to discover the structure of their own thought, develop sensitivity to clarity, accuracy, and relevance. It helps students to arrive at judgment through their own reasoning.

Also, It helps students note claims, evidence, conclusions, questions-at-issue, assumptions, implications, consequences,


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