#EdTech and the Socratic Method

WorldView Software’s product line includes a feature that few if any other online learning tools do: testing through a modification of the Socratic method.

The Socratic method, simply stated, is the asking of questions in order to lead students to knowledge.  According to The Critical Thinking Community,

A Socratic questioner should:
a) keep the discussion focused
b) keep the discussion intellectually responsible
c) stimulate the discussion with probing questions
d) periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved
e) draw as many students as possible into the discussion.

For more information on why to use the Socratic method in the classroom, this essay from the University of Chicago Law School does a terrific job of briefly explaining what everybody in the classroom should get out of the experience (and also why it shouldn’t be regarded with fear).

Using software to ask questions requires a modification of the method — most of the time it is used to lead an individual, rather than a group.   (But don’t forget that that’s one of the great things about our software — if you want to use it to guide classroom discussion, you can!)

All of the chapters in WorldView’s programs have additional material in the mini-lesson answers to study questions. Click on study questions, then select the types of questions to answer.  Factual questions are about factual information in the overview.  Conceptual questions require students to analyze information, drawing inferences and making evaluations.  Chronological questions make use of the program’s chronology, placing information from the overview in chronological context.  And graphical questions require students to analyze and interpret information that is presented graphically, in maps, graphs, and charts.  Select the question type and the number of questions to be studied, then start a session.

Notice that the mini-lesson answer contains additional information to that found in the overview.  Study sessions allow students two tries at a correct answer, and provide the explanation both times.  The point is to encourage students to actually read the answer and get it right.  Even if they only skim, they will still glean enough information to figure out what the correct answer is (as in the featured image above).

While the Factual study questions in our products merely test recall of important data contained in the overviews or glossaries, the Conceptual, Graphic, and Chronological study questions all follow a modified version of the Socratic method both in asking students questions that require either analysis, evaluation, or inference, as well as in giving them additional information about the topic in the mini-lessons that accompany the answers.  Because students are allowed to attempt the question two times, they are encouraged to read the answer through before the second try — learning while in the process of testing.

This is the difference between WorldView’s Socratic method and other “adaptive learning” software: Our software encourages the student to learn the material — the point of their edtech is to get the software to learn the student.  Which do you think is more conducive to your students’ learning?

BulbgraphOnOffStudy questions can be used for formative assessment in the beginning of a lesson or for summative assessment at the end.