How can I use Socratic Questioning to Support Learning in the Classroom?

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Check Out the New Blog The use of Socratic questioning creates an active classroom where learning is student-centered and inquiry-based.Socrates believed that using thought provoking questions could stimulate students to scrutinize ideas logically and arrive at the right answers. This idea paved the way for Socratic questioning or Dialectal approach, a technique in which the instructor feigns ignorance of the topic and assists students in learning through questioning.

The technique encourages students to search for the answers, and achieve clarity and accuracy by correcting misconceptions, thus, enabling them to gain in depth knowledge of a topic.

Benefits of Socratic questioning

The use of Socratic questioning creates an active classroom where learning is student-centered and inquiry-based. This form of questioning also facilitates long term retention of information and advances the problem solving skills of the students.

Types of Socratic questioning

The rule in this technique is to ask questions that will stimulate the class to think about a particular topic. The questions are structured to cover every aspect of the lesson.

Consider a scenario where the lesson being taught is the ‘digestive system.’ The questions of ‘why, what, how, when and where’ can be used to:

Clarify the content. “What forms the digestive system?” “Why do you think the particular enzyme is not necessary for digestion?” These questions are used to get the students to prove the facts and learn the lesson in detail.

Question the assumptions or beliefs. These questions are used to stimulate students by questioning their assumptions or beliefs on which previous learning is based. “Do you agree that enzymes are required for digestion?”

Question the rationale. The understanding of students’ knowledge is strengthened when they are asked to explain a rationale or reasoning. “How do you know that different enzymes are required to breakdown different types of food?”

Question the viewpoints. These questions will encourage the students to explore many different angles to a lesson and broaden their understanding. “What other enzymes are necessary for digestion to take place?”

Question the effects. “What happens if there is lack of a particular enzyme in the digestive tract?” Encourage them to probe deep into the implications and consequences of an action.

Double question. At times, students think and learn more when they understand the reason or rationale behind the question. “Why am I asking you about …?”

Incorporating Socratic questioning to support learning

While incorporating the technique in the classroom, it is important that teachers prepare the questions in advance. Ensure that the questions are neither too complex nor simple, but optimal and challenging for the students. Ask clear, specific questions and not ones that require a yes or no answer. Instead, phrase the questions so that the answers may be elaborated on and stimulate learning in various directions.

Once a question is asked, give the students some time to answer. If no one answers, the teacher may ask a student to answer and gradually try to engage the entire class. Summarizing the points discussed, either verbally or on the blackboard, also aids learning.

It is also suggested that you tell the students what is expected from them and talk about how their active participation can make this strategy a success and enhance their learning.

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Discuss here:  What are some strategies, like Socratic questioning, that you use in the classroom?

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