Thursday, November 01, 2007

asking questions

The Socratic method in asking questions to draw out the learner to really learn so as to understand for themselves, and in the Biblical priority, live it out, is most helpful. Both Scripture and Jesus employed it (not necessarily because they learned it from the Socratic method; I rather doubt it unless it had become a part of societal practice in that day).

When one is spoon fed all the answers, then one is dependent for more spoon feeding. But when one is taken off that by being trained to gather food for themselves, then, in the long run, they are much better off.

This is a new way of teaching for me as well as discoursing that I'm right now learning and putting into practice. So far, so good. For the most part I've stuck to it, though my old propensity to feed them too much information myself, like in lecturing did resurface regretably just this week. But this confirmed to me the tact that I've already been taking as well as making me determined to learn to do this better.

I'm not saying there's never a time for lecture or explanation; we at least need to have pointed questions that end up being helpful towards the goal of a lesson or in making a point. But I will say that generally the best learning occurs from give and take, listening well and drawing out the follower of Jesus or anyone else with questions to help them think through issues and find answers themselves. Too often I have a ready reply for everything, not necessarily in a pat answer, but some kind of reply. But I need to keep framing the knowledge I gather as well as my take on something in question form to see if this will draw others out to do just as well or better. And this is a great way to facilitate learning together.

What have you learned about asking questions?


Allan R. Bevere said...


Good post. In addition, we must not be afraid to ask what turn out to be the wrong questions. We will never know they are wrong until we ask them.

L.L. Barkat said...

You remind me that I'd wanted to do some reading on the Socratic method. I think it was the big biography on Ben Franklin that had directed me regarding this (oh my, it's been a while since I read THAT... I really should get to Socrates now)

Mark Goodyear said...

When I was teaching, the Socratic Method was all the rage.

An early experiment with the Socratic method got me into trouble when the students read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. They decided, despite my socratic questioning, that the poem involved a jailed convict and other bizarre things.

After that, I created a new motto for my classroom. "Many questions have more than one right answer. But that doesn't mean there aren't wrong answers."

John said...

Hey Ted,
I read an interesting quote by Schaeffer in "He Is There and He Is Not Silent" last night. It went something like "If I had an hour to spend with someone, I would listen for the first 55 minutes and spend the last five explaining something of the truth." First we need to listen (and ask pointed questions for clarification) and earn the right to speak, then speak in a response. We cannot speak to someone's heart if we do not know where their heart is. And listening and asking good questions are ways to get to know someone's heart when they are willing to share it with us.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good point. And thanks.

I'm thinking here as a teacher in guiding the learners through processing something for life. In turn they need to be willing to be vulnerable in asking mistaken questions. And I need to be vulnerable in acknowledging a better way to frame the question in this exchange. Or maybe even a better question altogether.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I've never really read up on the Socratic method, just touched enough on it to know something, or perhaps its basics. Looks like Wikipedia has a decent article on it, though I just looked at it.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, interesting. I find it interesting how something like this is seen in Scripture. Jesus seems to use it.

I like to try to use something like it to draw out people to think through issues and Scripture.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Oh, yes Mark,
And there are wrong answers, though in my setting I'll just pass over that with no comment, or else ask another question to try to remedy that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Great point. Yes, it's so true. We need to listen and hear well. And I like the emphasis of Schaeffer on that. Listen for a long time, then speak your piece, and chances are it will carry weight far beyond what it would have, otherwise.

Bryan Riley said...

Given my legal education I was indoctrinated with the method and love it. It makes for more interesting teaching and learning. Good post.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting and encouraging. Thanks, Bryan.

Anonymous said...

there was a lady that came into a consignment shop i was in a while back. the lady asked one of the women that works there if she could tell here where the restrooms were. the woman pointed and said "right back there where that big sign on the wall says restroom".

my daughter and i still laugh over that when we are in a store looking for the restroom.

Anonymous said...

things can seem very obvious to some people...but, to others, it is not always so obvious unless they ask.

my daughter and i have found our selves in similar places as the woman that asked the question. and so we laugh. in case that was not clear. we are laughing at the situation that we all find ourselves in. not seeing something that may be obvious to some and have to ask. and when pointed to we can see it and find our way there.

Anonymous said...

and we learned from the woman's question.
when we look now for restrooms we always look for the big sign first.
we can learn from other people's questions.

Ted M. Gossard said...

That's really a good analogy. Yes, we can learn so much from the questions we ask as well as the questions others ask. This makes me think that a good teacher will work at anticipating the questions those in the gathering will ask, and then asks them to draw out the participants.

Your analogy reminds me of the importance of observation. I can be pretty dull that way, but I think I've improved over the years.

Anonymous said...

and the spiritual is not always obvious. it is not always in your face, like a big restroom sign...until percieved by our spirit.

teaching the things of the Spirit is an interesting journey. for the Spirit teaches the students as well as the teacher.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. And I think we teachers can get in the way of God. I'd rather be too absent than too present- in my teaching, just for that reason. Something I'm learning and working at.