fbpx
Classful Classful Shop

As one of the oldest and most widely known teaching methods, a Socratic Principle is a common tool used for higher education, especially in Law.

But outside of those specific environments, knowing the full extent of the Socrates method can be challenging. Despite its ancient origins, the Socratic teaching method is less complicated than you might think. So, if you’re wondering, ‘what is the Socratic method of teaching?’, we answer those questions for you.

Read on to find out more about what the Socratic debate and method entails and how it can be applied to your classroom:

Education resources

View all
Easter 2 Digit By 2 Digit Multiplication Task Cards With Response Sheet & Answer Key

Easter 2 Digit By 2 Digit Multiplication Task Cards With Response Sheet & Answer Key

$1.00
Kindergarten Fix It Sentences for Structure and Comprehension

Kindergarten Fix It Sentences for Structure and Comprehension

$4.00
Coordinate Grid Worksheets Packet: Learn How Coordinates Work with Seasons, Months & Holidays

Coordinate Grid Worksheets Packet: Learn How Coordinates Work with Seasons, Months & Holidays

$4.50 $5.00
Gratitude Matching Card Game

Gratitude Matching Card Game

$2.00
Native Americans Indigenous People History Worksheets NO PREP with Vocabulary Interactive Notebook & more

Native Americans Indigenous People History Worksheets NO PREP with Vocabulary Interactive Notebook & more

$3.50
Getting Ready for Bed - featuring a boy character

Getting Ready for Bed - featuring a boy character

$7.00
Disguise a Turkey: Thanksgiving Robot Craft

Disguise a Turkey: Thanksgiving Robot Craft

$3.25
Boardmaker I Feel, I Need, I Want Card/Create Your Own PEC Visual

Boardmaker I Feel, I Need, I Want Card/Create Your Own PEC Visual

$2.00
Sight Word Spelling Lesson, Grade 3, List 1

Sight Word Spelling Lesson, Grade 3, List 1

$2.79

What is the Socratic method?

Socratic method definition: Considered one of the oldest and most long-standing techniques used within the classroom, the Socratic method was devised by philosopher and educator Socrates over 2,400 years ago. Despite the age of this method, it continues to be an innovative, effective, and productive option for the classroom to this day. You could say that the strategy is timeless, but it has been adapted over the years to be more suited for modern classrooms. The basics of the Socratic method are the following:

  • Critical thinking is used to encourage students to find holes in theories, explore their conclusions and reach an understanding of specific subject matter
  • The reasoning is used to devise and establish whether a particular theory, statement, or piece of subject matter is correct and does not contradict itself
  • Logic is used to work out the puzzle of a particular theory and to gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge they have gained

Rather than forming the whole of an educational method for the classroom, the Socratic Principle is designed to be used as a tool by students in specific circumstances. Because of this, it isn’t used as a lone methodology and is paired with other educational theories and practices to provide students with a well-rounded experience in which they are encouraged to think for themselves, push boundaries and develop a deeper understanding through questioning.

How is the Socratic method used in the classroom?

As a technique used in the classroom, the Socratic method can be highly effective, engaging, and challenging for students. It encourages your class to think for themselves instead of simply absorbing information and accepting the facts as they are. The Socratic method is typically split into two strategies when utilized in class. These are:

  • Socratic questioning: Where open-ended questions made by the teacher encourage in-depth and thoughtful discussions from students. These questioning sessions are not competitive or debate-led but provide a way to open a dialogue and improve students’ analytical and reasoning skills.
  • Impact on learning: Where information is processed more deeply, allowing students to build connections between prior knowledge and new information. This provides the tools for critical analysis, as well as better reasoning and rationalization

There is no one right way to use the Socratic method; implementing these techniques will depend greatly on various factors. Including the age, ability level, and learning stage of your students, all of which can have an impact on their ability to rationalize, question, and learn more deeply. As such, Socratic debate and discussion are usually recommended for older children through to college-age adults. As mentioned above, the Socratic methodology is often used during Law classes in its most advanced form.

In the school classroom there are still plenty of ways to implement these learning techniques in your classroom. While it may take time for students to adjust to this way of thinking, those reasoning and critical thinking skills will be invaluable in the long term. These two methods, provided by the Professional Learning Board, are excellent ways to integrate something difficult techniques into your curriculum:

Socratic circles

This technique collaboratively promotes cooperative learning. Students should be encouraged to have a basic understanding of their learning content and to analyze, explore, and investigate their material from as many perspectives as possible. In Socratic circles, you will provide your class with a specific passage of text, which should be read and understood in advance. Students should also be encouraged to make notes on the content if they feel it will help to support their learning.

Once this step has been completed, students should be arranged into two concentric circles – one inside and one outside. The students within the internal circle should be facing their partner in the outer ring, and they will have ten minutes to discuss, analyze, and share their thoughts on the specific material. Their partner should remain quiet during this time and observe and listen carefully to the analysis and understanding of the other student. Once the time is up, the partner can communicate feedback and comments on their observations. Notes should be taken on any feedback given.

After ten minutes, the roles should be reversed, with the outer circle taking on the reading and analysis, while the internal ring listens and provides feedback. This integration is particularly useful in the classroom, helping students think more deeply about their work and become more appreciative of the role feedback can provide to improve education.

Socratic discussions

A more classic technique often used in lectures and higher education classes, seminars or discussions provides a way for all of your students to be involved at once, with no need to take turns. Teachers should devise a list of thought-providing, relevant questions that encourage a more in-depth understanding and analysis-based response. Socratic discussions or seminars must be modeled and demonstrated to students ahead of time, so they understand what is required.

Educators must encourage participation from all students, which can be a downside to this method. Encourage quieter students in discussions to ensure they are still heard alongside the more confident or outspoken children. It is also helpful for students to listen to their classmates’ conclusions, processes, and analyses to form their own opinions, making this method better suited for spoken communication than written tasks.

Is the Socratic Principle right for my classroom?

As with many teaching techniques, the Socratic Principle isn’t a technique that can be used in a vacuum. It should be utilized contextually and applied in situations where it can be useful, effective, and powerful. Socratic questioning is, in itself, a skill that can be challenging for teachers to learn. To be effective, knowing how to devise thought-provoking and well-designed questions is a must. Room 241 provides excellent insight into how to run an effective Socratic workshop here.

No two teachers or classrooms are the same. While the Socratic method, and the activities provided, won’t work for everyone, the principle of deeper learning and questioning is invaluable in and of itself. Encouraging students to think deeply about their answers, connect the knowledge, and reach their conclusions can deepen their interest in learning and often capture their attention far better than classic materials or passive learning could.

The Socratic teaching method can make a difference across various subjects with time and effort. While it requires forethought and insight beyond the basics of the curriculum, it can provide vital skills in critical thinking and analysis that will become even more vital to students further down the line. Understanding the Socratic debate and method enables more freedom of thought and unique insights to be brought into the classroom, which can only be good.