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The Socratic Method in Brief

Socrates and His Students by Johann Friedrich Greuter, 17th century (Wikimedia Commons)

Named for ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC), the Socratic Method is an instructional technique in which the teacher avoids giving information directly but, rather, guides the student to a deeper understanding of the subject problem through a series of questions. By emphasizing asking and testing over directing and telling, the teacher encourages the student to use critical thinking to gain insight.

The Socratic Method is an approach to evolving a hypothesis in the sense that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying, testing and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. In the Socratic context, abstractions are viewed as valid only to the extent that they can be verified through observation and testing. Understanding comes through a series of rational deductions.

At times a teacher may put a single student in the hot seat for such Socratic interrogation, and at times an entire classroom of students.

Socratic Method Table

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© 1977-2012 by Paul Maslak, Revised and Reprinted by Permission of the Author