In my classroom, I rely almost exclusively on the Socratic method in my teaching for a variety of reasons, the most salient of them is simply that students who are talking in class–i.e. answering questions–are also thinking. As Daniel Willingham, the cognitive scientist at the University of Virginia (with whose work all teachers ought to familiarize themselves) succinctly puts it, “memory is the residue of thought.” If you want your students to retain what you teach them, ask questions that compel–or, one hopes, impel– them to think about the matter at hand in your classroom.
A couple of years ago I read Education for Judgement: The Art of Discussion Leadership by C. Roland Christenson, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet and published at the Harvard Business School Press. It’s one of the better books I’ve read for my own professional development, and I highly recommend it. To give you a sense of the riches this book contains for those interested in developing their skills in leading class discussion, I offer as this week’s Text this taxonomy of questions from its pages.
If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. Since this isn’t my work, I seek no peer review of it (and in any case, it seems like a safe bet that this material has been peer-reviewed by some of the best people in education).