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Teaching teens to argue well an essential skill: expert | CTV Edmonton

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A Solution to “Nothin’: Using Socratic Method for Meaningful Dialogue

How many times have you asked your middle level learner what s/he did in school or class that day, only to get the response, “Nothin'”?  You’re not alone. It’s frustrating to get the discussion to go anywhere beyond…nothin’.

By utilizing something called the Socratic Method, we can foster learning and critical thinking as well as develop key dialogue skills necessary in a 21st-Century world.

The origin of the Socratic Method stems way back to the days of Socrates, where he emphasized asking deep questions to nurture thinking.  The Socratic Method exposes the logic of one’s thought and typically uses a variety of questioning forms.  The key is to cultivate true thought, to not just accept “nothin'” as an appropriate response.  Let’s take a look at some examples of Socratic questioning in action and how we can apply them in our classrooms and homes:

  • Tell me more/investigate reason or evidence:  I’m not sure I understand. Can you give me an example or compare it to something I might already know? How did you come to that conclusion?
  • Examine assumptions/not taking everything at face value: What are you assuming? What reasons do you have for this?
  • Explore other ideas or viewpoints:  I’ve heard your opinion.  How might other people respond?  How would you handle an objection by __________ about this?
  • Think ahead/probe implications or consequences:  What effect would ______________ have? Can you deal with the consequences?
  • Question the questions: What is the math problem really asking you to do? How can we find out? What questions do we need to answer before we tackle this one? Where else can you find an answer to this question?

By incorporating any of these types of questions into our discussions with our middle level learners, we are fostering thoughtful and comprehensive thinking, a skill set vital for future problem solvers. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s imperative.

To learn more about Socratic Method, http://www.tip.duke.edu/node/84 offers parents/educators a wealth of information regarding promoting meaningful dialogue in adolescents.