Socratic questioning = the key to egaging students
After writing the book "A Coaching Approach to Education", I have had the opportunity of asking Socratic questions (see below for examples) to groups of teenagers.
Whilst giving a lecture about "Making Good Choices in Life" I noticed that some of the students were beginning to show signs of resistance. They were turning away from me, talking to each other... Perhaps I had failed to fully engage them in why they should listen to me, or I was speaking from the perspective of an "Old White Male", or I was not including their immediate thoughts and feelings in the lecture; or all of those things and more?
Perhaps I had failed to fully engage them in listening to me?
Looking for a way to bring the lecture back to life, and make the best possible use of our time together I embarked on a series of questions about what I was talking about and their immediate responses (negative or positive) to what I was saying. I made a statement about money and asked "What exactly does this mean?" and waited for the students to fill in the gap.
There followed a deep discussion on the function of money, loyalty, health and friendship in the pursuit of happiness and fun. All I did was to make a handfull of statements and question their responses, thoughts and feelings as they occured during the time we were spending together.
Questions are at the heart of critical thinkingWhen you use Asking, not Telling you will see these effects
This series would not be complete without mention of Socratic Questions.
There are six types of Socratic questions:
2. Questioning assumptions
3. Questioning reasons and evidence
4. Questioning Viewpoints and Perspectives
5. Questioning implications and consequences
6. Asking questions about the question
Get the students thinking more about what exactly they are asking or thinking about. Use these basic 'tell me more' questions that gets them to go a little deeper.
What makes you say that?
Why are you saying that?
What exactly does this mean?
How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
What do we already know about this?
Can you give me an example?
Are you saying ... or ... ?
Can you rephrase that, please?
2. Questioning assumptions
Questioning their assumptions makes students think about the beliefs behind their arguments. This really gets them talking.
What are you assuming is true?
What else could we assume?
What could we assume instead?
You seem to be assuming ... is true ?
How did you learn those assumptions?
How did you choose those assumptions?
Please explain why/how ... ?
How can you prove or disprove that assumption?
Do you agree or disagree with ... ?
3. Questioning reasons and evidence
When they give a reason for their arguments, dig into that reasoning rather than assuming it is true.
Why is that happening?
How do you know this?
Show me ... ?
Can you give me an example of that?
What do you think causes ... ?
What is the nature of this?
Are these reasons good enough?
Would it stand up in court?
How can I be sure of what you are saying?
Why is ... happening?
Why? (keep asking it -- you'll never get past a few times)
What evidence is there to support what you are saying?
On what authority are you basing your argument?
4. Questioning viewpoints and perspectives
Most arguments are given from a particular position. So question the position. Show that there are other, equally valid, viewpoints.
Another way of looking at this is ..., does this seem reasonable?
What alternative ways of looking at this are there?
Why it is ... necessary?
Who benefits from this?
What is the difference between... and...?
Why is it better than ...?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of...?
How are ... and ... similar?
What would ... say about it?
What if you compared ... and ... ?
How could you look another way at this?
5. Question implications and consequences
The argument that they give may have logical implications that can be forecast. Do these make sense? Are they desirable?
Then what would happen?
What are the consequences of that assumption?
How could ... be used to ... ?
What are the implications of ... ?
How does ... affect ... ?
How does ... fit with what we learned before?
Why is ... important?
What is the best ... ? Why?
6. Questions about the question
And you can also get reflective about the whole thing, turning the question in on itself. Reflect their arguments back to them.
What was the point of asking that question?
Why do you think I asked this question?
Am I making sense? Why not?
What else might I ask?
What does that mean?
Educator! Would you like to readily generate lesson plans that are effective and respectful of different learning styles?
I thought so.
Questions are a powerful way to give structure to the learning experiences that you give your students, especially when you use the same questions that are uppermost in your STUDENTS minds. So, what questions do students have about what they are learning? You may well have heard students ask “Why are we learning this?”, or in other ways question and challenge what is being taught. So that’s the first question to answer. WHY. The others are WHAT, HOW and WHAT IF.
In the 1970’s, Bernice Mcarthy produced a comprehensively effective and respectful lesson planning strategy called 4MAT.
Let me ask you, as if I were your mentor, the four 4MAT questions, so that you can more quickly write a lesson plan that’s going to include all your students in an active learning session
Why are they learning this?
What are they learning?
How will they learn / use this?
What if they want to use this in real life, outside the school environment?
”The 4MAT lesson plan is process of delivering information based on a shared experience. It has four parts each with an exercise for the student’s right-brain and left-brain (in that order). This kind of lesson plan engages students in interactive activities. The students focus more on their learning process than the lesson content - because it is not just what you do do, it’s the way that you do it that’s important for their learning.”, from the 4MAT website.Another way of describing 4MAT
The 4-MAT process has plenty of activities. An initial “attention grabber” that teaches a lesson and promotes interactive learning, and a core component where they can practice the learned concepts in another activity. Finally, the lesson wraps up with something to take home so that the learning can be integrated with the students’ real world.
Ask questions, without knowing the answers
Mr. Tell has not retired yet, but is close to it. The teacher is relying on (and still enjoying) his Guru Role.
His body language says that he's in charge of the room. You can hear him telling the students stuff from the teacher’s book, and from his university education.
He is telling stories from his personal experience connected to the stuff in the teacher's book. The teacher’s deep-rooted attitudes and opinons are apparent even when they are not politically correct, nor shared by the students.
You get a sense that this teacher has treated his students like this for a long time. Certainly he has all this lesson, probably all last term and indeed it seems so natural to him that it’s likely to have been going on for many years.
You get the impression that this teacher knows what was right, and he knows that he is right.
However, the students are doing whatever they can to stop the teacher from telling them what's right all the time.
You notice that the students attitude is less than productive, they are disrespectful and their behaviour is occasionally disruptive. The teacher deals with these disruptions through an authoritarian approach, which includes threats and punishments.
"Change is inevitable, especially in an educational environment", Martin Richards
Some of the reasons why a coaching approach to education is necessary:
Ask, don't tell your Students
As the traditional role of Teacher / Instructor expands to include include that of Mentor / Coach / Facilitator, educators need a greater degree of flexibility and skill in navigating the different leadership roles.
Experienced teachers know that when they TELL their students why they should do something, what to do, how to do it... they are decreasing the learning; and when they ASK students why they should do something, what they think they should do, how they think they should do it, they are increasing the learning.
Hersey-Blanchard’s model of Situational Leadership is a useful model for illustrating the range of leadership roles that an educator chooses from. Indeed these are the same roles that are being taught and trained in the World of Business and Industry. So, why not in Education?It takes self-control and confidence in one's leadership to shift focus from telling to asking.
It is the quality of the questions that influences the process of putting the responsibility for learning where it belongs - with the student.
In the long-run, asking questions, is worth it because students become self-motivated learners.
'Asking Questions' is where Coaching and Teaching meet up, collide, and merge.
CAtE book, available on Amazon (click the picture)
Coaching Tools, available for download (click the picture)
Teacher, facilitator and coach; Martin Richards trains educators to use a coaching approach all the work they do.