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The Socratic Method

January 3, 2012

I love the Socratic Method of teaching. In my experience, the person who is best able to convince someone is themselves. If people see an idea as arrising internally, they will not oppose it. It’s a very difficult way to teach for some people, but it comes naturally to me. I was in a class with Peter Boettke and occasionally he would try the Socratic Method for like 10 or 20 seconds. It would go like this:

Boettke: Asks a difficult question.
Students: Duuuhhh……
Boettke: Comes up with a fantastic answer to the question.

Then he’d get frustrated and go back to his (excellent) normal method of lecturing.

When you teach by the Socratic Method, the hardest part is coming up with questions easy enough that the student gets all of them right. The smarter the student, the easier the Socratic Method is. If the student gets a question wrong, you need to branch out and ask questions that show them why they got your question wrong before continuing onto the main point. You need to know several ways of coming to the same conclusion. Occasionally, it’s better to stop questions altogether and just tell the student the answer, but basically, the way to do the Socratic Method well is really easy questions leading up to the big answer.

I don’t think the format works well for blogs because you don’t know what the students will answer. You don’t get the same level of engagement either. The best thing about the Socratic Method is that it forces the student to engage the source material in a meaningful way from day 1. They can’t doze off because they are constantly answering questions. But, I think I will give it a shot. Maybe it will work, maybe not.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. zephistopheles permalink
    January 3, 2012 5:01 pm

    I have never seen anyone successfully apply the Socratic Method via blog, either, though I have seen it done via social media.

    • January 3, 2012 6:45 pm

      I consider it highly likely that I will fail, however, in the entrepreneurial spirit, I will give it a shot.

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