Easy Tips to Incorporate a Socratic Style of Teaching


What is a Socratic style of teaching and is it something that will work in your homeschool? Learn more and see if it might be the homeschooling approach you have been searching for this year.

Easy Tips to Incorporate a Socratic Style of Teaching in your Homeschool

Aloha Homeschooling Friends!

Iʻm here to share with you on how easy it can be to incorporate a Socratic Style of Teaching (formally known as the Socratic Method) into your homeschool. However, please donʻt be alarmed at the word “Socratic” itʻs not as scary or complicated as we might think. Letʻs put on our critical thinking caps and dive right in, to find out more about the amazing “Socratic Style” of Teaching.

What is a Socratic Style of Teaching?

I first stumbled upon this concept back in 2016. I say stumble because I canʻt recall what led me to it, or even how I found it. It was probably during a late-night web browsing search on the Classical method or style of Homeschooling that pulled it up, but I canʻt say for sure.

Nevertheless, I found it, and boy was it an eye-opener. I didnʻt even know there was such a thing as a Socratic Style of Teaching (Socratic Method). I mean I have heard of Socrates, Plato, and Homer. However, to find a resource that goes deeper into how some of the greatest minds in history were developed is an amazing resource for this homeschooling mama.

The website I speak of is The Foundation of Critical Thinking. They are a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating and developing critical thinking for all ages and areas of personal and professional development.

There are of course numerous other resources, however, for the sake of consistency I am focusing my writing on the information and guidance acquired at the aforementioned website.

Following are some definitions of the main points and ideas previously mentioned.

Socratic Method

A form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying preconceived ideas.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method

Critical Thinking

The analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking

How I Started to Implement a Socratic Style of Teaching

Okay, so those definitions can become more complex should you decide to dig deeper, but donʻt loose heart as these concepts can be applied in your homeschool, no matter the curriculum or methods you have chosen to use. However, please keep in mind that these tips are just stepping stones to the vast universe of educational philosophies and methods.

In 2016 I decided to start implementing these concepts in our homeschool. Bare in mind that my keiki (child/children) were ages 6 yrs., 10 yrs., and 11 yrs. old at the time. Nonetheless, I gave it a try.

It started first and foremost with my own learning of this methodology. Yes, it can be a robust and somewhat daunting concept, however if taken in baby steps and with perseverance you can find and create a starting point that will work for you.

The two areas I decided to focus on were the Socratic Questioner and Teaching tactics. I considered the content in the article I read and decided that these two things were doable for us.

The Socratic Questioner

As the “teacher” in our homeschool I felt this was naturally my role. However, this role was quite the reverse in comparison to the way we were accustomed to doing things.

When my girls would come to me with questions I would naturally just answer them or tell them that I didnʻt know and would have to research it.

Makes sense right? If this is what you do with your keiki please know that this is in no way wrong. No judgements from my end, you do what works and thatʻs whatʻs important.

I share this simply to provide the stage for contrast as to how my thinking and normal mode of operation needed to be augmented for the sake of becoming a Socratic Questioner.

Example of my normal modus operandi (M.O.)

Daughter #4 – Mommy, why do sharks have more rows of teeth than humans?

Me – Well, Iʻm not quite sure, however, I can look it up. It may have to do with them losing teeth faster than us. Iʻll let you know what I can find.

The Socratic Questioner should:

  1. Keep the discussion focused.
  2. Keep the discussion intellectually responsible.
  3. Stimulate the discussion with probing questions.
  4. Periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved.
  5. Draw as many people (children, parents, friends) as possible into the discussion.

Source: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic-teaching/507

*Online article was free at the time I took these notes, however, if you would like to read the article now you must sign-up and pay for membership.

Enter the New Socratic Questioner Mama

Enriched by the definition and guide of what a Socratic Questioner is charged with I was able to slowly and organically implement these simple steps. The discussions were a bit challenging at first since my girls were not used to having their questions answered with questions.

Their confused and shocked looks were clear evidence that I had successfully shifted my normal role of “Mama give me answers” to “Mama the Socratic Questioner”.

It didnʻt happen overnight nor was it perfect, but we were taking baby-steps and thatʻs what really mattered. Mind you I actively participated in the discussions as I felt it beneficial for them to learn by my example on how to go about with this new method of learning.

I would jump from questioner to discussion participant which encouraged further discussion about a particular subject.

Over time and with constant practice we have been able to expand our minds as well as our dialogue.

Iʻm happy to share that we still do this to this day. They are much older in comparison to when we started this journey and have grown more cognizant of the world around them as well as who they are as individuals and who they want to become.

Our discussions have take on larger more serious concepts, both academically, socially, and morally.

Teaching Tactics That Require Active Thinking

The age and number of keiki (child/children) you have will determine how or when you can implement the following tactics.

I found that with four of us itʻs easier to implement these teaching tactics as opposed to just two of us.

Itʻs even better when Hubby/Daddy is home as this always helps to elevate our discussions and allows me to focus more on the role of a Questioner/Instructor.

The following is not an all inclusive or exclusive list. I have used it as a guide not just in our homeschool journey but as a way for our ohana (family) to have more meaningful and in-depth conversations about life in general.

11 Tactics to Encourage Active Thinking

Students (participants) should be routinely called upon to:

  1. Summarize or put into their own words what the teacher or another student has said.
  2. Elaborate on what they (themselves) have said.
  3. Relate the issue or content to their own knowledge and experience.
  4. Make connections between related concepts.
  5. Give examples to clarify or support what they have said.
  6. Restate the instructions or assignments in their own words.
  7. State the question at issue.
  8. Describe to what extent their point of view on the issue is different from or similar to the point of view of the instructor other students, the author, etc.
  9. Take a few minutes to write down any of the above.
  10. Write down the most pressing question on their mind at this point. The instructor then uses the above tactics to help student(s) reason through the questions.
  11. Discuss any of the above with a partner and then participate in a group discussion facilitated by the instructor.

Source: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic-teaching/507

*Online article was free at the time I took these notes, however, if you would like to read the article now you must sign-up and pay for membership.

Is the Socratic Style of Teaching for Everyone?

Well maybe yes and maybe no. To be honest I donʻt know the answer for that question. However I would like to challenge you and ask the following questions:

~ Does the Socratic Method have something to teach everyone? And can everyone learn something from a Socratic Method of teaching?

I wish you all the best on your Homeschool journey wherever you might be in that process. Until next time!

About Rebecca Canevali

Aloha,
Becca here with some quick get to know me info. I was born and raised in Hawaiʻi. Growing up I learned to dance hula, surf, fish, and dive. Iʻve even sailed on a traditional double-hulled canoe (waʻa kau lua) to gain my high school science credits.

Our homeschooling journey started in 2015 here in Hawaiʻi on the Big Island.

As a Native Hawaiian Ohana (family) it has been important for us to incorporate various cultural beliefs and traditions into our homeschooling. Homeschooling has blessed us with the freedom to experience all the wonderful and unique aspects of our ancestral homeland.

Mahalo (Thanks) for taking time out of your busy day to share in our journey!

Aloha & Blessings!!

Visit My Website
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Rebecca Canevali

About the author

Aloha, Becca here with some quick get to know me info. I was born and raised in Hawaiʻi. Growing up I learned to dance hula, surf, fish, and dive. Iʻve even sailed on a traditional double-hulled canoe (waʻa kau lua) to gain my high school science credits. Our homeschooling journey started in 2015 here in Hawaiʻi on the Big Island. As a Native Hawaiian Ohana (family) it has been important for us to incorporate various cultural beliefs and traditions into our homeschooling. Homeschooling has blessed us with the freedom to experience all the wonderful and unique aspects of our ancestral homeland. Mahalo (Thanks) for taking time out of your busy day to share in our journey! Aloha & Blessings!!

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