Being Socratic and Invisible

As my students frequently note, I am somewhat Socratic in my teaching methods. I teach them a concept, and then as we review and practice it, I ask questions when they are lost. While they grumble about the fact I won’t just tell them what they already know, it’s quick to show me what they’re confused about so I can help clarify and it shows them that they can rely on themselves for the answers. In fact, a number of them have told me that’s how they now get through class. If they can’t remember something, they ask themselves what I would ask them, and get themselves back on track.

Being Socratic has been a wonderful tool for teaching in my current position, but I think I’ve really only developed it in the past two years or so. Of course, because I’ve relied more on it than my old teaching styles, it’s now my reflex teaching method. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s making things interesting as I create more material for Dead Bunny.

The Socratic method requires the teacher to be there asking questions, probing to help the student find their way through a skill. That’s something a blog post, a PDF quick-facts sheet, and a video tutorial cannot do. I’m still in the process of creating the first tutorial, and I think one of my biggest problem spots right now is the script. I’m used to demonstrating a skill, and then directing practice by questioning, but the video won’t allow for that for obvious reasons. Even when I teach myself how to create a more interactive learning unit, I know I won’t be in the program questioning.

I could try to predict the common questions that will come up, but I know from experience that students don’t always run into the same problems. I’d hate to throw useless questions at a student who just wants a better understanding of a skill. How do I sooth my inner Socratic teacher in this case?

So far, the best I can do is write as clearly as I can, addressing the basic steps necessary for the skill and trying to cover the more common trouble spots. It’s forcing me to teach in a more direct manner than I’ve ever taught in my life. In fact, I’m having to write this material from my training frame of mind instead of my teacher way of mind.

Can multimedia have a Socratic aspect to it, too? I don’t know, but I’m willing to explore and find out.

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