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What is The Importance of a Good Question?

Posted by Blyth-Templeton Academy

student-centered learning


At Blyth-Templeton Academy, we believe that questions are more important than answers. The fundamental question that we ask in everything we do is, What will motivate this learner to love learning?  As educators we are committed to making sure that our students develop the critical thinking skills they will need to become successful in whatever path they choose to pursue. How do we do this? Our academic program encourages questioning as a tool for becoming independent and confident learners. We use the inquiry-based learning style, the Socratic method, in our classrooms to fully engage our students in learning. 

How do educators use the Socratic method in the classroom?

Our teachers do not lecture. Questions are the driving force behind the learning process in the Socratic method; they guide a student to discovering information the teacher already holds. Ultimately, as teachers prepare for a Socratic discussion in class, they will develop a list of starting questions to help jumpstart the conversation. In a science class, the questions can draw the students to a topic or point from a lecture or reading. In questioning students, the teacher will try to force the students to a deeper understanding of the topic.

For example, the teacher may ask students to describe cell mitosis. Using the student responses, the teacher may then ask students to describe or explain each stage of mitosis. The questions created by the teacher will point to specific elements of mitosis, forcing students to describe each stage and ultimately understand each phase.

Fundamentally, the questions shift the instruction from the teacher to an understanding by the student by removing the teacher's role as "explainer." Questions also allow the teacher to redirect students and ensure that all the major points about the subject at hand are covered.

What can students expect in a Socratic classroom?

The questions in the Socratic classroom ensure that the discussion is a dialogue instead of debate. By using student comments and answers as a basis for additional questions, other students are encouraged to participate and create a dialogue. This gives all students a chance to participate and engage in the topic since disagreement comes in the form of a question. Thus, the questions allow students to buffer disagreement as a means of developing deeper understanding rather than creating an adversarial discussion. Here's what two BTA students have to say: 

9th grade student: “There’s more pressure to talk and participate, but it helps you gain a better understanding and stay focused. My teacher commented that I had begun participating more. There are less people that will tell you “that’s wrong”. You can tell people are actually learning.”

11th grade student: “At my old school, I liked being able to just hide and not have to talk. You can’t do that here. For the first week I didn’t want to talk. But you can say things without being worried about someone calling you out. Socratic discussions that can turn into arguments but they don’t go outside of the classroom because it’s not about character. The arguments are really helpful.”


Free Download What Can Teens Learn in a Socratic Classroom?


About Blyth-Templeton Academy

Temp Keller
Blyth-Templeton Academy is an experiential micro school located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. It offers an academically rigorous 9-12th-grade high school curriculum designed to foster intellectual curiosity through active learning and community exploration. The small class sizes ensure that each student has a front row seat in classes with an average size of 8. Our model combines a warm, inviting atmosphere with great teaching that allows our students to flourish. Schedule a visit soon.

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