Thursday, May 25, 2006

Any Questions?

One of my favorite teaching strategies is the Socratic Method. I like this method because questioning the class for ‘original answers’ fosters critical thinking. For example, instead of telling the students the steps in a 5-stepped research process, I ask them a series of questions that leads them to discover the 5 steps as a class. I start by writing 1 through 5 on the board so the students will know we are looking for five steps. Then I ask them “When you have been assigned a topic to write about, how do usually begin your research?” Almost always they will say, “The Internet!” I will then ask them a series of questions, such as “How many results do you get?” or “How good are the results?” until they admit that maybe the web is not the best place to start. I then write “Internet” in the fifth spot so we remember that this is the last step. Next I will ask something like, “When you first start your research, what do you need to know about your topic?” I usually get answers like “what it is” or “background information.” After that I ask them “Where can you find this type of information?” I ask questions until we have all 5 spaces completed.

I first learned about the Socratic Method at an instruction workshop. In the workshop, we received a handout titled “Introduction to Socratic Pedagogy.” Unfortunately, the handout does not appear to be online, but here are some helpful tips from the handout.

  • Prepare your sequence of questions before class
  • Vary question difficulty and pace
  • “Ask a variety of questions on the same concept.”
  • “Set up patterns”
  • “When a student asks a question or if we ask a question, don’t answer it yourself.”
  • Don’t ask questions that end in “Right?”