The Socratic Method In Teaching

group-239251_640During my years as a college student, I was lucky enough to be encouraged to ask questions by many of my esteemed professors. But instead of me simply answering the questions the way I believed they wanted them to be answered, they created a classroom environment where I as well as my classmates could seek out multiple plausible answers through open discussions and the sharing of ideas. Creating and maintaining such an environment is the essence of the Socratic Method and is what my teaching philosophy is founded on. My teaching philosophy revolves around the notion that while students will be provided with the knowledge that was promised them in the course syllabus, they will be encouraged to go further and to explore beyond the boundaries of the coursework. This experience is fostered through careful encouragement, facilitated by creating and maintaining a learning environment where knowing “the answer” takes a back seat to the process of arriving at multiple answers/solutions to the same issue.

The students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, which is why it is so important that they develop the critical thinking necessary for arriving at multiple answers/solutions for the complex problems, challenges, or situations that are facing our ever-changing world. This can only occur if they embrace the notion that living in the inquiry is not only okay, but is the only way they can keep continuously coming up with new ideas and innovations to address real world issues.

A college education can do much more than provide a stable lifestyle. It can expand an individual’s thinking, which can expand that individual’s worldview. Armed with an expanded worldview, that individual can have a positive influence on the lives of those that he/she meets. This aspect of education is what I focus on. This is why I work hard to create and maintaining supportive learning environments where students are encouraged to go deeper into the course material by being inquisitive and seeking out answers/solutions on their own. I encourage students to express differences in opinions (as long as they can back up their arguments). I encourage questions, debates, innovative thinking, and learning for the sake of simply learning, just as Socrates did in his day.

In my classroom, students quickly learn that I am not impressed with hearing them simply recite what they read or what was taught to them. They realize that I want and expect a deeper level of critical thinking and open discussion, where new ideas emerge. By holding students to this standard, they come to realize that they are getting much more out of the class than what they signed up for, and that getting a college education is more than simply getting a college degree.

In order to have students explore beyond the course material, they have to be carefully pushed without intimidation. This is achieved by teaching them that having the “correct” answer is not always the most important thing, instead asking the right questions and seeking the answers to those questions is usually how new and more innovative answers/solutions for today’s more complex issues are arrived at. Armed with this contextual change in educational philosophy, students begin to dig deeper, because their curiosity is encouraged and awakened. There becomes a greater interest in the coursework by students, a willingness to take on more responsibilities when it comes time for group projects, and an openness and fearlessness when it comes to sharing new and sometimes radical ideas. Facilitated by the Socratic Method, students learn how to think critically as well as respect the thinking of others by developing their natural curiosity for learning and listening (which is how we receive the knowledge of the world around us).

Education can be a liberating experience for the mind, body, and soul depending on how it is contextualized for the student by his/her teacher(s). I use the Socratic Method so that I can develop their minds by encouraging their natural curiosity. Once that curiosity and inquisitive nature is unleashing, it is almost impossible to bottle them back up, making my students willing and able to go out into the world and address the complex challenges of the ever-changing world. My students are prepared to do more than just get a good job, as they can ask thought provoking questions, think critically, seek out multiple answers/solutions for the same issue, respectfully debate the validity of their arguments, and be open enough to listen to the views and ideas of others. My students are prepared to be leaders.

Dr. Barrett has an earned PhD in applied management and decision sciences, with a specialization in leadership and organizational change. He also holds a MS in organizational leadership and a BS in organizational management. In addition to these degrees, Dr. Barrett has completed several executive certificates focusing on various areas of management and leadership development.

Dr. Barrett is proud of his academic accomplishments, as they are the product of his long and sometimes difficult journey out of poverty. Along his journey, Dr. Barrett served honorably in the U.S. Air Force, participating in several vital overseas operations in the Middle East and Europe. He has also taught organizational leadership courses at the graduate degree level at Mercy College. This desire to develop leadership whether it be in myself or others is what drives Dr. Barrett. Dr. Barrett currently lives in NYC, where he runs The Barrett Center for Leadership Development, LLC (http://www.TheBarrettCenter.com) and produces The Barrett Leadership Blog (http://www.TheBarrettCenter.blogspot.com).

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