Fostering Critical Thinking Skills using the Socratic Method

Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2020 (Zhang) | Jonah Schumacher

Overview and Purpose

The Socratic Method is an ancient form of instruction that requires few, if any, external resources and because of this, it has seen wide usage in all levels of education from elementary to law school.

The purpose of this course is to introduce educators (of all levels, backgrounds, and disciplines) to the Socratic Method, ultimately providing the understanding and know-how to be able to add the method to one's teaching toolkit.

The course will consist of 3 units taking the following format:

Unit 1: Provides an introduction to the Socratic Method with examples.
Unit 2: Provides a more in-depth breakdown of the Method.
Unit 3: Consists of information and exercises on how to make use of the Method no matter the discipline or level of the learners.

Needs Assessment


Critical thinking (CT) skills are integral for success in and out of school. Promoting higher-level thinking and CT is often a focus at all levels of education in every discipline (Karami et al. 2012). In addition to the benefits of academic success, CT skills are necessary to thrive in the current pluralist, information-saturated world. One must be able to work and engage with others, teach themselves new skills, and be able to make rational decisions as well as quickly determine the validity of arguments and information one finds on the internet. (Vieira et al. 2011).

CT is a buzzword in education and business (Nappi. 2017). Despite the significance placed on the term, there still seems to be room to improve in this area of education as identified by the quote,

  • “One of the obstacles is the fact that teachers do not have a clear idea about critical thinking because the meaning ascribed to critical thinking in different contexts is rarely explicit.” (Vieira et al. 2011. P. 43).

If educators are uncertain about specific modes or qualities of CT then it would be difficult for them to pass these coveted skills on to students.

The purpose of this course is to introduce educators to one of the oldest, most versatile, and easily implemented ways to foster CT skills: the Socratic method.

What is to be Learned

Throughout the course, one will become familiar with the purpose and process of the Socratic method. Once one has an understanding of this method, suggestions of how one can implement the method in different settings will be discussed (such as f2f and asynchronous).

The Learners

Though this course will be targeting educators of all levels of academia (though K-12 educators may specifically draw more benefit). Anyone looking to gain a new perspective has the potential to gain from this course. The Socratic method can also be adapted and applied to every discipline.

Learner Analysis

Learners will likely mostly consist of K-12 educators who wish to foster CT skills in their classrooms. No prior knowledge of the Socratic method is necessary to benefit from the course, however should one wish to teach the method, prior educational experience would be advantageous.

Context for Instruction

This course will be delivered online making access to the internet necessary. A computer, laptop, or tablet would be best, as some resources may not translate well on mobile devices.

Preformance Objectives

Overall Course Objective: Those who complete the course will be able to make use of the Socratic Method in their own courses.

Objectives completed along the way to achieving the course objective:

1) Explain how the Socratic Method fosters critical thinking.

2) Evaluate whether a situation may be suited for implementing the Socratic Method.

3) Be able to distinguish the different elements of the Socratic Method.

Course Units

Fostering Critical Thinking Skills using the Socratic Method

Unit 1: An Introduction to the Socratic Method

Unit 2: The Socratic Method: Step-by-Step

Unit 3: How can I use the Socratic Method in my classroom?

Curriculum Map