ENroute Yearbook 2018-19
Socratic Questioning Julie Preston , The Business School , Associate Fellow
“ I cannot teach anybody anything . I can only make them think .”
“ Education is the kindling of a flame , not the filling of a vessel .”
( Socrates )
Students often seem to experience difficulty when asked to “ critically discuss ” or “ critically analyse ” issues . Instead they want to be taught the facts , the “ right answers ” to gain a good mark in an assignment or exam .
I ’ ve found many don ’ t read core texts or do the required pre-reading , so would just telling them what they need to know to pass exams make everyone ’ s life easier ? Have many of our students actually lost the will or the ability to think critically ?
Critical thinking is an essential business and life skill . Today ’ s organisations look to recruit people who can analyse what ’ s going on around them and make good personal and business decisions . They look for people who take ownership of their learning and use it to add value to the business .
Socratic questioning is a key tool for instilling critical thinking . As the name suggests , it ’ s named after the Greek philosopher Socrates who taught students through questioning and exploring issues to draw meaningful conclusions . This isn ’ t about exposing what students don ’ t know , it ’ s a learner-centred approach , asking and answering questions ( often with another question ) that stimulates critical thinking about issues , linking prior learning , supporting students to reach their own conclusions rather than being handed answers by a teacher .
Creating a safe , though intellectually demanding , learning environment challenges students to think . Using Socratic questioning encourages analysis and evaluation rather than just remembering facts . Instead of filling the vessel , we should be kindling the flame of curiosity and critical thinking .