Socratic Questioning and Critical Thinking

Socratic thinking was a new term for me and was on the course forums before I was involved.  I was curious, so I looked it up.

Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, deep and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

These are excellent purposes and ones that I use quite frequently in the Speechreading class.

This site gave me an excellent cheat-sheet of the types and examples of Socratic questions:

1. Questions for clarification:
  • Why do you say that?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
2. Questions that probe assumptions:
  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
  • What would be an example?
  • What is….analogous to?
  • What do you think causes to happen…? Why?
4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:
  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  • Why is the best?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
  • How are…and …similar?
  • What is a counterargument for…?
5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
  • What generalizations can you make?
  • What are the consequences of that assumption?
  • What are you implying?
  • How does…affect…?
  • How does…tie in with what we learned before?
6. Questions about the question:
  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does…mean?
  • How does…apply to everyday life?

As with SO MANY other topics in this course, these are concepts that I was already using.  However, learning more about the research and support, the finer nuances, and advantages and disadvantages of these various techniques allows me to fine-tune my skills and have a variety of fully-supported instructional strategies at my disposal.

I use questioning techniques often in the Speechreading course. The types of questions described above provide an excellent framework to delve into complicated issues, analyze solutions, and explore multiple perspectives on hearing loss and communication.  Sharing these categories with my students also provides them with support as they continue to be inundated with ‘research’ and promises of cures for hearing loss.  They will certainly need to become critical thinkers as they continue their lifelong journey in this area.

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