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What is Socratic Questioning

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006
bust of Socrates

Named for Socrates (ca. 470-399 B. C.), the early Greek philosopher/teacher, a Socratic approach to teaching is based on the practice of disciplined, rigorously thoughtful dialogue. The instructor professes ignorance of the topic under discussion in order to elicit engaged dialogue with students. Socrates was convinced that disciplined practice of thoughtful questioning enables the scholar/student to examine ideas logically and to be able to determine the validity of those ideas. Also known as the dialectical approach, this type of questioning can correct misconceptions and lead to reliable knowledge construction.

Although "Socratic questioning" appears simple, it is in fact intensely rigorous. As described in the writings of Plato, a student of Socrates, the teacher feigns ignorance about a given subject in order to acquire another person's fullest possible knowledge of the topic. Individuals have the capacity to recognize contradictions, so Socrates assumed that incomplete or inaccurate ideas would be corrected during the process of disciplined questioning, and hence would lead to progressively greater truth and accuracy.