Fill in the blank:

A good question deserves

Click to see answer A good question deserves another question

When Plato wrote about his mentor Socrates, he had Socrates operate in an unusual way: instead of explaining things, or making bold pronouncements, or providing cunning analogies, Socrates just asked questions. This characterization of Socrates has led to an entire teaching methodology known as The Socratic Method.

1 The Socratic Method

To use the Socratic method,

  1. Ask a good question.

    A good question is open ended, responds to what the student has said so far, helps the student progress in their thinking, and is within the student’s grasp to understand and reply to.

  2. Listen

  3. Ask another good question

  4. Listen

  5. Ask another good question

  6. Listen

  7. Ask another good question

This may seem a bit extreme, and I don’t recommend using it in its purity at least at first. Sometimes students are missing or misunderstanding some information and it is best to explain it directly. But the principle is to just ask questions.

I have found myself continually surprised how often a few good questions result in the student saying Oh, I see and the tutoring is done without me ever explaining anything.

I find this goes a lot more smoothly if I add a fairly liberal sprinkling of affirmations. Good question! and Now we’re making progress and Yes! and Whoopee! and so on help the students not feel like they are being grilled.

2 Some questions to try

Does it work?

How do you know it is broken?

How could you check that?

What’s the last line you know is right?

How could you find out what it is doing?

What did you expect it to do?

How was that explained in class?

Did that explanation make sense?

What parts do make sense?

What part confused you?

What did you expect instead of what you got?

How would you do this by hand?

Have you drawn a picture?

What’s the first step?

What are your options?

Which of those options do you want to try first?

Did that option work?

Which options remain?