Socrates taught by asking questions, drawing out answers from his pupils to challenge the completeness and accuracy of their thinking. Here are the six types of questions Socrates posed:
Clarifying concepts. These questions get students to think more about what they are asking or thinking about, prove the concepts behind their argument, and get them to go deeper.
- What exactly does this mean?
- How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
- Can you give me an example?
Probing assumptions. These questions make students think about the presuppositions and unquestioned beliefs on which they are founding their argument.
- What else could we assume?
- What would happen if…?
Probing rationale, reasons and evidence. When students give a rationale for their arguments, dig into that reasoning rather than assuming it is a given.
- Why is that happening?
- What evidence is there to support what you are saying?
Questioning viewpoints and perspectives. Most arguments are given from a particular position. So attack the position. Show that there are other, equally valid, viewpoints.
- Who benefits from this?
- Why is it better than or different from…?
Probing implications and consequences. The argument a student gives may have logical implications that can be forecast.
- Do these data make sense?
- Are they desirable?
- How do [these assertions] fit with…?
- What are the consequences of that assumption?
Questioning the question. You also can get reflexive about the whole thing, turning the question on itself. Bounce the ball back into their court.
- Why do you think I asked this question?
- What does that mean?