What Is Socratic Method And How to Implement It in Classroom

LiveBoard Staff
26 May 2022
LiveBoard Staff

If you’re looking for highly effective and engaging methods to conduct your online classes, you’ve probably heard a word or two about the Socratic method. Named after the Greek philosopher Socrates, this approach to learning and teaching involves asking probing questions to stimulate creative and critical thinking and encourage students to arrive at their own conclusions.

This centuries-old teaching tool is still used today, especially in law schools. Even so, the method is a solid approach for almost all subject matter. This technique can also be used in various online learning environments, including discussion boards and chat rooms.

So what is the Socratic method exactly, and how can you put it into practice in your online classroom? In this article, we will discuss how to use it in a classroom setting and some benefits that come with using it.

Young Math tutor during an online lesson

What Is Socratic Method

We know from Plato’s works that Socrates used to engage in argumentative dialogues with his students during lectures, scrutinizing their beliefs and values, spotting inconsistencies and holes, thereby asking them questions and providing arguments against their statements, both through logic and by correcting fact-based mistakes. It was never meant to intimidate or prove any of them wrong per se. Instead, he used this approach to guide them to more concrete and grounded beliefs through their thought process and understanding.

Today, this method is used in various teaching environments. Perhaps it finds the most widespread use in law schools, but it is also effective in other subjects. Usually, many teachers randomly choose a student, ask rapid-fire questions, and point out all their mistakes. Some teachers and professors are very aggressive and pressing with the Socratic method, and more often than not, they are deliberate with this attitude. But that doesn’t mean it should always be like that. In most classrooms, the Socratic method entails interactive discussions with students and letting them take partial control of the discussion process, whether in groups or individually. When going for the Socratic method In Math or other subjects alike, teachers ask questions about how a problem at hand can be solved, whereby students shall figure out the solution via critical thinking.

Why Is Socratic Method Effective

The Socratic method urges students to think critically and creatively and base their arguments on solid ground, as well as prepares them for life outside the classroom. It develops confidence and allows them to take charge when needed.

When used correctly, the Socratic method is one of the most effective ways to engage students and promote learning. It allows for open-ended discussions that can lead to new insights and perspectives on various topics. It also develops essential analytical, problem-solving, and collaboration skills. It also allows them to take a step back from memorizing facts and regurgitating information and instead look at the bigger picture.

Little girl answering her lesson during an online class

Tips on Implementing Socratic Method in Classroom

When trying to implement the Socratic method in your classes, it may be difficult for some students to understand it. It is especially true if you’re teaching children. The responsibility you’re handing to them and the required preparedness will put some pressure on them, let alone starting with the questions and arguments. Luckily, we do have some tips for you to do it smoothly:

Explain The Socratic Method

Walk them through the Socratic method and how it will benefit them. Present this to make them realize the benefits and make sure they understand that there’s nothing to be intimidated by. By doing so, you will ease off some pressure and help them look forward to the session.

Give Your Students More Freedom

Don’t limit them with the resources they can use when engaged in the discussion. Let them have their notes and all the required material at their disposal to make use of when need be. When they are trying to find a note, don’t rush them. Instead, encourage them to take their time.

Let Students Feel Relaxed During The Talk

Don’t stamp your authority on your students when in the discussion. Instead, make them feel relaxed and arouse enthusiasm for the upcoming talk. The struggle will benefit them; you don’t want to eliminate it. Instead, you do this for them to have the desire to participate.

Tell Students to Prepare Priorly

Let them know beforehand to be prepared for the discussion by analyzing the material, reading the texts, understanding the concepts, solving Math problems, etc. It’s better if your students are well prepared for the class and are not making out things in a rush.

Keep It Serious

You have to make sure they are taking the process very seriously. Keep a serious tone throughout the whole Q&A. Also, tell the rest not to interfere when you’re directing your probing questions to their classmates – you will choose who to ask questions yourself. 

Try Socratic Method In Groups

Don’t always focus on each of them individually. Instead, integrate group discussions and collaborative activities. For example – separate two groups and let one group examine the other and vice versa for the same or two different topics. This should not look like a sports match, and there are no scores. Instill in them that the benefit is collective – even for the teacher.

Use Digital Tools To Your Advantage

The Socratic method can be harder to conduct or manage when teaching online, especially if the subject is Math. Thus, you can use LiveBoard to let your students make their calculations on an interactive whiteboard so you can see it in the process and ask guiding questions or explanations via Quizes. Your digital classroom will also probably allow you to make separate rooms for groups. Give them time to discuss the topic within their group before starting the discussions.

Guide Them To The Answers

Ask questions that require critical and analytic thinking and questions that the answers rely on facts. Correct them on the latter immediately when they’re wrong, and for the former, bring logical arguments against their claims. Be careful with this. As a teacher, you have to guide them to find better answers. Whether it’s a particular concept to be analyzed, a reading material to be explained, a quote that needs to be interpreted, or even a Math problem, you want them to find their answers through discussing and weighing opposing arguments.

Conclusion

A Socratic method is a powerful tool that can significantly affect both in-person and online classes. Hopefully, you now feel more equipped and confident to use it. The more you engage in discussions with your students, the better results you will achieve!

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