8 Ways the Socratic Method Can Boost Tutoring Effectiveness

boosting tutoring with the socratic method

Boosting Tutoring with the Socratic Method

By Bob Lasiewicz, Managing Director, Crossroads of Learning

The Socratic Method (also known as Socratic teaching or questioning) is probably the most ancient of all teaching methodologies. In its original form, the tutor will question the student until confused about what he knew regarding a particular subject. Then slowly the tutor will ask open-ended questions to reintroduce the subject. Consequently, raising the student’s level of thinking to a higher level.

The Socratic Method

The historical goal of Socratic Method questioning was to create an independent thinking student. In other words, a student who could grasp subject knowledge and visualize themselves within the subject.

Additionally, being able to analyze and manipulate the information internally and externally. Thus being able to synthesize the information into a larger, possibly more challenging concept. This dialogue was not a simple one and often continued for months on a single thought.

Using the Socratic Method Today

Today, Socratic Method questioning has come to mean the use of open-ended questioning. That is to say, bringing a student to realize an answer for himself, rather than just giving the answer to the student. Most importantly, if the student doesn’t seem to be finding the answer, ask a different question. To clarify, you can ask your question in a different way.

According to Dr. Richard Paul, Director of the Foundation for Critical Thinking at Sonoma State University there are several universal standards for how questions should be formulated. Thus keeping students stimulated by and responsible for their own thinking.

Socratic Questioning

The following are examples of questions for the most significant Socratic Method standards as outlined by Dr. Paul.

  1. Clarity: Could you elaborate further? Could you give me an example?
  2. Accuracy: How can we determine if that is true? How can we verify your statements?
  3. Precision: Could you be more specific? Could you provide more details?
  4. Relevance: How does that relate to the issue? How does that align with the question?
  5. Depth: What are some of the complexities of this question? What factors need to be considered?
  6. Breadth: Do we need to consider another point of view? Do we need to look at this from a different perspective?
  7. Logic: Does what you say follow from the evidence? Does all of this make sense?
  8. Significance: Is this the central idea? Is this the most important issue to consider

How would you use this method in your tutoring sessions?  What small adjustments could you make in the questions you ask to your students?

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