Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Socratic Method: Leveraging Questions to Increase Performance

The Socratic Method: Leveraging Questions to Increase Performance
by Maj. Norman H. Patnode, USAF


Explaining the Socratic method:
Maj. Patnode describes the Socratic method as a means for “moving people along.” In essence, is a method that uses questions to challenge the beliefs, experiences, and paradigms that that people hold in an effort to reexamine the possibilities that may exist. The ultimate goal of this method is to achieve “greater understanding and increased performance.”

How to:
Maj. Patnode describes the Socratic method as having two elements:
1. Questions
2. Knowing where you want the conversation to go (or move)

Patnode states that the most important aspect of this method is to remain focused on your goal. The questions you ask must lead others to your desired end state. He suggests using a vision story as a way to “capture and communicate the desired outcome.” The most difficult part of this method is trying to figure out what questions are the right questions to ask. Once the questions are formed, it is important to remain quiet after you ask them – even if there is an awkward silence afterward. It is important to ensure that you do not answer your own questions – if someone is unable to answer the question, he suggests backing up and breaking the question into smaller bits.

Responses to the question will come in the form of answers and statements. Patnode states that both responses contain valuable information which should guide you in the next step: “Knowing where the group (or individual) needs to go next, and how big a step that group (individual) is capable of taking will help you form the question that will move them forward.” Patnode suggests that using Bloom’s Hierarchy of Learning will aid you in determining what the likely next step is. It is also helpful to have a understanding of the concrete data and facts to help guide your questions toward your goal.

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