Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tips to lead Socratic Discussion

As trainers we often use Socratic direction to prove a point, using audience participation. The method of Socratic discussion is actually quite simple and bases itself on the prior knowledge of the learners. The trainer will usually ask a series of pointed questions to finally get to an "Aha!" moment. The mnemonic I use to describe the process of Socratic direction is KOPSA. Here's what it stands for:
As you'll notice, its a pretty simple process. With that said, this is a simple process that one can often get wrong. Here are a few things I like to be careful about:

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Socratic discussion starts from Knowing your audiences responses. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Think of all possible answers that your learners can come up with. The more branches you can identify for your discussion, the better prepared you will be.

Accept Input

Often you'll hear responses which are not exactly the one's you're looking for. Our tendency could be to just say "No!" to these responses. Instead, I like to use open ended, generative statements such as "What do you think...", "Hmmm... that's an interesting thought. With that said..." or, "That's a good thought, let's come back to that in sometime. How would you...". I like to use what I call the "Reflect/ Deflect Technique".
REFLECT back to the questioner what you thought was the point she was making. ("If I understand correctly, you’re asking..."). Depending on how the questioner "reformulates" their point, DEFLECT it by either:
  • Asking the group : ‘How does the rest of the group feel?’;‘Who else has faced a similar problem?’
  • OR ricochet to a particular participant: "Adam, given your experience how do you feel about this?"
  • OR Reverse it to the person making the point: "You've definitely got a great point there. Tell us more about it"

Know your Outcomes

Its very easy to get pulled into tangential discussions with the socratic method. Its important to keep sight of the point you're trying to make and push forward towards it. I usually like to maintain a Parking Lot flipchart in the classroom which I let students maintain for themselves. Each time a topic goes way too off topic, I like to place the issue on the Parking Lot by simply placing a post it on the flipchart. This generally means that we can have a special interest discussion about the topic outside of class hours.

Have Patience

You will need to have patience with this method -- often many sessions may end up in you having to go around in circles trying to get to the next point. Too much haste, and you may create a perception that you're not listening to your audience's viewpoint. This is one of the problems with Socratic discussion. Open ended questions mean open ended discussion and we know how open ended discussion can end up!

Be Flexible

Be flexible (while of course, keeping time). Socratic discussion is really about putting part of the control in the hands of the learner. You might just run into an interesting discussion which is of great value to the topic, but slightly off your plan. Prioritize the topics in your session to decide if you are ready to have this discussion over completing other activities in the time-slot. One of things I do when preparing from a session plan, is that I prioritize topics as "Must Have"/"Should Have"/"Could Have" sections. This lets me understand the highest priority sections and what I can get away with not doing, if I have pacing issues. The key however is that if you can't make time for this side discussion, then make sure you respectfully place these topics on the parking lot (or let the students do it).

Don't patronize them

Last but not the least, don't go overboard with Socratic discussion. If something is simple enough, just say it! Consider the intelligence and prior experience of your audience. You don't want to patronize them too much by going around in circles trying to make an awfully simple point!

17 comments:

andy said...

There's a very good transcript of teaching binary arithmetic to third graders with the Socratic method

Sumeet Moghe said...

Yep. Saw that sometime back. Its a pretty nice demonstration, that one.

Louis said...

Thanks a lot for the tips. They can definitely lead you to that factor.

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experiential marketing agency said...

I think I'll try the Socratic method out. This method can be used for marketing as well.

company registration Philippines said...

We use Socratic Discussion for our Business demonstrations and seminars. Thank you for elaborating on this.

long island advertising agencies said...

Thank you for sharing this article, I definitely learned a lot from it. Getting ideas from your colleges is also a good example.

white label seo said...

I'll be sure to give this a shot, I've never tried this before. Thanks.

seo london said...

I'll be sure to keep this in mind, so that I'll be always prepared. Thanks.

sydney seo services said...

This is something important when your in a marketing meeting, you always have to keep this in mind at all times.

Emilio.M said...

Thinking of a marketing plan can be really hard at times, you definitely need to work together if you want to make things right.
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Valerie Phillips said...

These are very effective tips. I have to agree with you that if something is simple enough, just say it. Consider the intelligence and prior experience of your audience. Your tips are really something to keep in mind especially when you are conducting marketing meetings.

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chiropractic marketing said...

A great argument is needed in persuading people, which is a must have in marketing.

Best SEO Services said...

Socratic discussion is some how complicated more than here we are expecting. Everyone has different views on different topics and one have to make sure that they have to be open minded at time of Socratic discussions

Best SEO Services said...

i think i should give try to this method of discussion and analyze its outcome

SEO India said...

I'm impressed. You're truly well informed and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I'm saving this for future use.

Birmingham SEO Service said...

If you are a good listener than easily you can lead Socratic discussion with ease.

Betty J. Harper said...

I’ve used this technique when I was in college. My professor was really amazed and she even recommended me to some of her friends who occasionally invite speakers for their organization.

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