Biosphere Socratic Questions
This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Sample questions arranged in sequence for Socratic questioning regarding the Biosphere:
The above and other Socratic questions, with general answers for most, can be downloaded as a PDF file from Biosphere Questions and Answers (Microsoft Word 37kB Jul28 03).
Teaching Notes and Tips
Tips: As in all Socratic questioning, give students time to reflect before answering questions, and make an effort to call on different students throughout the class period. Let students know at the beginning of class whether or not you will call on students randomly, or ask for hands to be raised, or both.
To explore questions on the biosphere fully, allow at least a full class period of 50 to 90 minutes.
Many simple details can cause problems when using Socratic questioning. For example, students might feel that they never are given quite enough time to reflect on the answer before called upon. They might not be able to hear some of the other students' answers, especially in a large classroom. They might find it very challenging to take notes during the questioning and response session, and at least will find it more difficult to take notes than during a traditional lecture/chalk class.
The best way to determine what problems are occurring is to give students a questionnaire after each of the first few classes in which the approach is tried. Ask students directly if they think that you are allowing sufficient time for reflection. Ask if they are concerned about hearing other students' responses, and so forth. Add one question that asks students to make note of any problems not referred to in the questionnaire.
Each student should be able to answer any of the questions that was posed during the Socratic questioning session. A good way to assess what the students have learned from a Socratic questioning class is to give a short quiz in which several of the questions from the previous class are listed. This quiz can be given at the beginning of the next class period. If the class is large and grading frequent quizzes is too burdensome, the questions can be designed with multiple-choice answers.