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September 8, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Seven Types of Socratic Questions–A Response to the University of Michigan

I’ve always been fascinated with questions….especially since my early involvement in debate during my freshman year of high school (and beyond). I ran across a post at the University of Michigan (presumably for teacher development) on Six Types of socratic questions.

1. Questions for clarification:
2. Questions that probe assumptions:
3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence:
4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives:
5. Questions that probe implications and consequences:
6. Questions about the question:

You can view the Michigan Model for Socratic Questioning Types here.

I’m sure these 6 types of questions are fine and dandy for the teacher who created them….and he/she has probably even used this methodology in the classroom. However, I feel that a 7 type question model–which takes in insights from literature, philosophy, and debate is perhaps more specific to the problems and challenges of critical thinking.

Most thinking models have various labels and categories attached to them….and academic disciplines (like your own) probably use many of the following:

Types of Socratic questions:
1) Clarification, understanding, and distinction (including the nature of the question & definition)
2) [Questions that Probe] Assumption(s)
3) [Questions that Probe] Context(s)
4) [Questions that Probe] Value/purpose
5) [Questions that Probe] Options and alternatives
6) [Questions that Probe] Connection/Opportunity cost
7) [Questions that Probe] methodology/approach/perspective

Bonus: Questions that probe or create common ground….but also questions which clarify differences….particularly the most important differences (or the most unclear or indistinct).

Ultimately adapt these to your students needs….or help co-create them with your students perhaps. These are presumably you want your students to be focused on and asking 10 years from now and even 20 years from now–taking into account the stakeholders concerned–some co-creation and crowdsourcing (aka getting feedback from your students and/or even past students) might be helpful.

Sorry, my model does not include sub-questions….but you are welcome to do this.

Its possible you could walk through the Michigan 6 Question Socratic model and build from that….leveraging student specific, context specific/problem specific, discipline specific, as well as drawing on important questions which might deserve its own category or sub-category (alternatives and options for instance)

Happy Socratic Questioning!

Feel free to include your suggestions for other Socratic questions or Socratic question types in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Other Critical Thinking posts from Compassion in Politics

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