Teaching through questioning

Teaching through questioning


One of the oldest and still one of the most effective teaching method is called Socratic teaching. In Socratic teaching the focus is on giving students questions and then more questions. You do not lecture or even talk about a subject. This is method of inquiring about an issue probing learners for further thinking and further responses, those more questions and deeper thinking for getting responses. This method has a many applications for many different subjects. In doing so you are helping learners to call to mind what they have learned precociously or their tacit knowledge

The process of questions can be totally unstructured from the beginning or the facilitator can carefully lead learner through a carefully structured sequence and be aware of pre-determine answers – thus allowing for probing with further questioning.

In designing Socratic questioner a facilitator should:

  • keep the discussion focused
  • keep the discussion intellectually responsible
  • stimulate the discussion with probing questions
  • periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved
  • draw as many students as possible into the discussion.


During a Socratic teaching session, Learners:

  • Practice active listening
  • Depending on the format learners can converse directly with other learners or/and with the facilitator
  • Build upon what others say and add their own experiences
  • increase the clarity of a subject and recognize further implications



  • Uncertainty as to where discussion might lead can make it difficult to fit into a highly structured curriculum
  • Failure without student participation
  • Some students dislike that there is no “right” answer
  • Many students fear speaking in front of a group

Preparing for using the Socratic Method

You must have clear vision of the lesson you want your learners to take away from a session. It is essential to have your endpoint in mind so that you can always be angling toward it. You can launch the discussion by asking something that has a great chance of getting a response. You must really build on a strong initial question. Prepare an additional 6-10 follow-up questions that are apt to be used during the discussion.


  1. Be flexible
  2. Allow students to express opinions.
  3. Allow “mistakes.” They can be valuable discussion points and learning experiences!
  4. Don’t be afraid of silence! You CAN get the discussion going! Sometimes waiting is all it takes to get an answer!
  5. Intervene if a learner dominates the discussion and encourage participation without embarrassment


Marios Siathas, General Manager, EIMF