Socratic Debate


What is Socratic Debate?

Socrates, who loved to argue, argue, and question, and was therefore sentenced to death in 309 BC, did not leave any written work behind. We know him from the accounts of his students, especially Plato. The philosopher, who is still alive with the method he brought to the art of rhetoric, helped his students to reveal the inconsistencies in their minds and reach their own truth by asking questions in the method named after him.


Socratic Discussion, based on Socrates’ questioning behavior, is a method that aims to reveal existing knowledge through questions and dialogue, rather than informing the person. Although it has faced some criticism in recent years, it is considered the foundation of the western pedagogical tradition. It is an important legacy in that it invites people to think critically.




Socratic Debate in Education

The main purpose of many of the new educational approaches is to guide, teach and learn rather than conveying plain information. This is sometimes achieved by problem solving, sometimes by generating, sometimes by uncovering what already exists.

The way the teacher conveys plain information in the classroom, sometimes sitting in front of the screen, is no longer sufficient for students to grasp the subject. Instead, steps aimed at keeping the child’s attention and excitement alive help to ensure permanent learning. We can consider the Socratic debate in this context and list its features and steps as follows:

  • It is one of the ways we can apply to protect interaction in the educational environment.
  • For the student, who can easily access pure information whenever he wants, the doors of a world he never expected are opened. He discovers what is in himself, learns how to find what is not.
  • Socratic discussion is the method that motivates students to recognize and complete their shortcomings.
  • It can be said that it is the basis of the teaching through discovery approach.
  • It is important in terms of gaining critical thinking skills.
  • In order to be efficient, the question-answer technique should be known, but the two should not be confused with this method.
  • The teacher should find topics that will attract attention and should be able to arouse the desire of the student to reflect and question them.
  • The teacher himself should always be open to learning new things.
  • It is necessary to prepare questions that will encourage students to explore further, taking into account possible answers and assumptions.
  • Active participation rules and speaking instructions are determined.
  • It can be applied in the form of group work for students to exchange ideas.
  • Follow-up questions are used.
  • The teacher encourages the student to look from a different perspective by directing them with their questions.
  • It is not based on precise knowledge, so the teacher should not aim to make the student adopt his own truths directly.
  •  Ideas are analyzed, existing information is brought to the surface.
  • By implying subjective information, it is aimed that students reach their own truths.
  • In the best Socratic dialogues there is real tension between the interlocutors. It is the duty of the teacher at this point to develop arguments and maintain the balance of the classroom environment.
  • It should not be forgotten that although it requires a great effort of the teacher, it is a student-centered study.


Socratic Method of Discussion

  •  It is based on Socrates’ dialogue with his students.
  • Since the boundaries between disciplines were not defined as in today’s academy, Socrates was able to successfully apply his method in every field.
  • Since clear lines are determined today, it is an effective method at points involving relativity. It enables the person to reach his own treasure and find the truth.
  • “Beauty, happiness, what is life, what do we live for?” It is ideal for subjective disciplines involving questions of a philosophical nature, such as However, it may not be useful for objective topics that have a clear definition and formula, such as “cell structure, sentence types, rate calculation”.
  • The aim is to reach one’s own truths through questioning. It tries to uncover the motivations and assumptions by which students lead their lives.
  • The Socratic method uses questions to examine individuals’ values, principles, and beliefs. Through questioning, participants first try to define and then defend their way of life, moral intuitions, emotional worlds.
  • Facts are wanted to be known, but it is necessary to focus on what the person thinks about these facts, not what others think about them.
  • There is a reference to moral education, how one should live. All comments in the Socratic debate are addressed to specific participants in the discussion. Generally accepted propositions and abstractions are not taken into account, and the values ​​and beliefs of each questioner are investigated.
  • The Socratic method is used to show complexity, difficulty and uncertainty rather than revealing facts about the world.



Examples of Socratic Discussion

The Socratic method can be applied by the teacher in a single lesson, or it can be developed between several branches.


Example-1: Suppose there is a Socratic discussion on the pandemic process and vaccines. This study can be discussed multidimensionally in the fields of natural sciences and social sciences.


We can list the steps of Socratic discussion as follows:

Students are encouraged to read a series of articles on vaccines and come to class prepared to discuss the topic.

The class is divided into small groups on the topic. For example, scientists can be assigned to groups such as medical doctors, parents, politicians and discover information from the point of view of these segments.


After preliminary preparation, the teacher asks the students a series of Socratic questions. With these questions,

  • to make a statement,
  • relate to the previous question,
  • make assumptions,
  • provide reasons and evidence,
  • get to the root of the matter,
  • to conclude,
  • to make recommendations,
  • and finally, they can try to get them to look at it from a different angle.

Example questions could be:

  • What is a vaccine?
  • When was the last time you were vaccinated?
  • How did you feel in your body during and after vaccination?
  • What do vaccines do?
  • Why are they sometimes required?
  • If you were a parent, would you immediately give your child a newly released vaccine?
  • Have these vaccines been thoroughly researched?
  • What is good research?


Trying to find answers to these questions in each group helps students understand both the topic and the importance of good research. It leads to a series of reasoning. It increases students’ ability to make connections while meeting their learning needs.


In the process, depending on the answers, the teacher also generates new questions.


Example-2: We can create a Socratic discussion environment on the seasons with questions like the ones below. It can be managed jointly in Social Studies and Turkish courses.


  • The class is divided into four groups.
  • Each group arrives by researching and preparing for the seasons in advance.
  • The teacher asks the group of each season whether that season is more beneficial for our lives.
  • What is the season?
  • How is it formed?
  • Which countries experience which seasons?
  • In which seasonal zone is our country located?
  • What effects do the seasons have on production in our generation?
  • Which generation would you like to be in?
  • How does the winter (repeated for spring, summer and autumn) season make you feel?
  • Considering the weather conditions, which season is the most necessary to take precautions? What measures do you take?

According to the answers from the students, the questions may change and multiply. The aim here is to make students aware of the geography they live in and to recognize the emotional changes that occur in them depending on the physical conditions. Thus, by discussing what is in their essence, they learn for themselves.


Students should also be encouraged to take notes during Socratic seminars. A follow-up assignment or activity should be given to help reinforce what they have learned. An overall assessment report from their point of view also encourages students on what they learned in the workshop.


Whether it’s a few questions or an entire workshop, it gets to the heart of the misconceptions. Socratic discussion briefly; It is a necessary and effective method in terms of improving performance in education and providing critical thinking skills.

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