How to use the Socratic Method of Teaching

The Socratic Method of teaching has been used by schools and teachers for many generations. However, it is often more used in higher education, which comes as a disadvantage to young students. Young students should be taught by the Socratic Method because it encourages critical thinking, in-class participation, and other social skills that students will need to succeed at any level of education.

The Socratic Method, first developed by Socrates, is an easy-to-understand principle. It involves discussion; by discussing a certain topic or book or thought, students can actively engage with their knowledge instead of simply memorizing or retaining it. Students can also exchange opinions and ideas, and develop excellent speaking and communication skills. The Socratic Method can be used in virtually every subject, although in slightly different ways.

For humanities teachers, the Socratic Method is easy to employ. English, social science, and philosophy teachers will be able to use the Socratic Method without even changing their curriculum. For example, once your English class has finished reading a book, place the students’ desks in a circular shape and begin discussing the theme, plot, or overall influences of that book. All of the ideas which are discussed and evaluated can be used later on in presentations, essays, summaries, etc.

Science and mathematics-based teachers can also use the Socratic Method on alternating days with their regular lesson plans. For example, a calculus teacher may be able to lecture on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and hold Socratic Method seminars on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in which the students may discuss theorems and principles of calculus. By presenting a subject like calculus in two different ways, calculus teachers will be able to really instill the value of the subject in their students.

Socratic seminars, however, must be “refereed” constantly. If you do not monitor your students’ discussion, they might go off-topic and begin debating about personal values or opinions that may be influenced by race or political or religious backgrounds. These conversations should be avoided or, at the very least, limited. These discussions usually become very personal, and the discussion can only go in circles. If you find that your students are in this situation, change the topic immediately.

The Socratic Method is a fun yet educational way to teach your students how to make use of their knowledge. The Socratic Method also teaches students how to think critically, accept others’ opinions or viewpoints, and apply their knowledge to the real world and to other forms of knowledge.