Athens, 475 B.C.:
Socrates walks through the marketplace, a student or two at his side. He does not pontificate on the issues of the day, does not lecture on the proper political philosophy, does not offer aphorisms for a life well-lived. Instead, he begins a conversation by asking a question. As his student answers, Socrates listens for the presuppositions about life and philosophy that the student holds, and his next questions drive the student to recognize his own true thoughts. When the student finally realizes that he holds contradictory ideas, Socrates begins to use questions to guide his student to true understanding.
This method of instruction through dialogue has taken on the name of Socrates, and the Socratic method is a primary tool of discussion that we use at Westminster. Capitalizing on every student’s innate desire to learn and ability to reason even at the youngest age, this powerful teaching method engages children’s hearts and minds toward a purposeful end.
Socratic questioning can look at goals and purposes, can probe into the nature of an issue, can inquire into whether or not there is relevant data and information, can consider alternative interpretations of data and information, can analyze key concepts and ideas, can question assumptions, can consider implications and consequences, and can consider alternative points of view and more. Socratic questioning trains students in the discipline of sound inquiry, and the results are impressive.