Socratic Questions

Socrates, the early Greek philosopher and teacher, believed that disciplined and thoughtful questioning enabled the student to logically examine and validate ideas. Using Socrates’ approach, the instructor feigns ignorance of the topic in order to engage in dialogue with the students. By using Socratic questioning, instructors promote independent, higher-level thinking in their students, giving them ownership of what they are learning through discussion, debate, evaluation, and analysis of material.

Tips for Using Socratic Questioning:

  • Plan significant questions to provide meaning and direction
  • Draw as many students as possible into the discussion
  • Allow at least thirty seconds for students to respond
  • Follow up on students’ responses
  • Periodically summarize in writing key points that have been discussed

Types and Examples of Socratic questions

Types Examples
Clarification questions
  • Why do you say that?
  • What do you mean by…?
  • How does this relate to our discussion?
  • What do you think is the main issue?
  • Could you expand upon that point further?
Assumption questions
  • Why would someone make this assumption?
  • What could we assume instead?
  • How can you verify or disapprove that assumption?
Probing questions ·         What would be an example?
  • What do you think causes to happen...?
  • Why…?
  • What other information do we need?
  • By what reasoning did you come to that conclusion?
  • Is there reason to doubt that evidence?
Implication and consequences questions
  • 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?
Viewpoint and perspective questions
  • What would be an alternative?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • How would other groups of people respond and why?
  • What might someone who believed…think?
  • 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...?
Questioning the question
  • What is this question important?
  • What was the point of this question?
  • Why do you think I asked this question?
  • What does...mean?
  • How does...apply to everyday life?