Socratic Questioning

Socrates was a renowned Greek philosopher and teacher known for asking questions in a way that drew the answers from his pupils. The goal of the Socratic Approach or Socratic Questioning is to "challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking" through questions that bring the learner to the ultimate learning goal. The Socratic Approach is one of the foundational pillars of the education systems in most English-speaking countries. Because of this, it is important for English language students to be comfortable with Socratic Questioning. Here is more on Socratic Questioning to share with your teachers so that they can incorporate this approach into their lessons.

There are five types of questions used in Socratic Questioning:

1. Clarifying Questions: These are "tell me more" questions that get the learners to pinpoint their exact question, explain their argument more clearly, and think more deeply. For example, "Why are you saying that?" and "What does this mean?"

2. Probing Rationale, Reasons and Evidence: These questions force the learners to explore the reasoning as opposed to accepting it as a given. Examples include: "How did you choose those assumptions?" and "Please explain how/why…"

3. Questioning Viewpoints and Perspectives: These questions are designed to attack a position to show that there are other equally valid viewpoints. For instance, "How do you know this?" and "Can you give me an example of that"?

4. Probing Implications and Consequences: These questions help the learners forecast what might happen next and what that result might mean. Examples include: "Why is this necessary?" and "Who benefits from this?"

5. Questions about the Question: These are questions which challenge the question itself. For example, "Why did I ask that question?" These questions put the ball back into the learner’s court for further exploration.

Once you have discussed these question types with your teachers, brainstorm activities they can use to train their students in both the questioning and the answering stages of Socratic Questioning.

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