Defining the Socratic Method of Teaching

An effective teacher gives students the tools requisite to formulate their own ideas and thoughts. Teachers are supposed to inspire their students, giving them the academic wings needed to soar. Socrates believed in this concept. He did not merely lecture and expect students to memorize information. He gave them the knowledge to try and figure things out. He shaped who they were to become, letting them choose the direction in which they desired to travel.

Socrates is typically regarded as one of the great forerunners of education. Subscribing to a seemingly backward style of logic, Socrates filled his students with wisdom, hope, and intelligence. The Socratic method of teaching differs from today’s teaching paradigm in that it challenges students to think on their own, and to raise questions where they deem fit.

Today’s educational system is intent on attempting to impart chunks of knowledge to be memorized in rote fashion, ostensibly turning the mind of the average student into a machine capable of certain thought patterns. The Socratic method of teaching seeks first to understand, and then to be understood.

The clarity with which students can think from the Socrates model of teaching tend to have an unfair advantage over students that have succumbed to the standard lecture format, which is problematic in several regards.

The Socratic method of teaching can be described as presenting information, but not necessarily accepting it without question. Socrates created dialogue with his students, gleaning as much from them as he could, and helping them in areas in which he more clearly understood. Socrates knew that he did not have all the answers, and gave his students the opportunity to think for themselves, and to come to some conclusions all on their own.

Education today seems bent towards finding answers where they have already been found. For example, a mathematics class yearns to find out answers to questions where the formulas have already been set in stone, unflinching in their immutability. Instead of proving a formula time and again, a mathematics class may be better suited to try and figure out new equations and formulaic responses.

Delving deeper into discussions can bring forth enlightenment, whereas if the educator is only willing to accept certain information as correct, the creative and imaginative mind of the student will be irrevocably stifled. The Socratic method of teaching hopes for the teacher and the students to engage in lively discussions, and trying to come up with mutually consenting opinions and thoughts on relevant topics.

This teaching style abandons the lecture format, in which many students become lost. There are many different learning styles present in every classroom, from the auditory and visual learner to the kinesthetic learner, and those students that have been declared learning disabled for some reason or another. A simple lecture will not engage all of the students, and a chain of events will perpetuate the hidden agenda.

The Socratic method of teaching may seem radical, but education should seek to cultivate and harvest the young minds, as they are the future. Change is necessary, variety the spice of life. If we continue to teach as we have always taught, and think as we have always been taught to think, we will receive what we have always received.

There is nothing new under the sun, and the wisdom of Socrates is still prevalent all these years later. Education needs to evaluate whether or not our so called progress has been correct, or all for naught. Technology is radically changing the academic landscape, and a new generation of children is growing up in a world of seemingly endless possibilities.