Developments In Business Simulation And Experiential Learning, Vol. 33, 2006.
The article investigates the use of educational techniques used in traditional classroom settings (TCS) and how they may be applied to virtual classroom settings (VCS). The Dialectical methodology, more commonly referred to as the Socratic Method, is one of the oldest teaching techniques. Developed by the Greek philosopher Socrates, the term "dialectic" means "discussion", and the methodology itself involved the presentation of a question, followed by an answer to that question, followed by a follow-up question or request for clarification of the answer. According to the article, "Through this process of dialogue, the initial response (e.g., definition) is destroyed (i.e., shown to be inadequate), requiring further thought and analysis by the interlocutor, and then leading to the submission of a new response by the interlocutor. The questioning continues, often using the 'technique of counterexample' (i.e., considering additional examples, cases, and/or particulars), ultimately seeking to obtain an adequate response, if possible".
The method is used to instigate questioning of the internal beliefs and presumptions of the student. "The Socratic approach is used to get one to re-examine what they believe; it is not an approach used to present absolute information". The method relies heavily on the expertise of the instructor as well, and his or her ability to guide the student down a meaningful path and provide a "disciplined, rigorously thoughtful dialogue". Thus the process is a helpful tool in developing critical thinking and analytic skills in and of themselves, and not a method to apply to an actual target.
A weakness of the method, however, is that if the dialogue is composed entirely of unknowns, how can the student develop any meaningful understanding out of the process ? The article postulates that a knowledgeable moderator of the dialogue should be able to guide the student through the process in a direction that takes them to a meaningful conclusion. Furthermore, the method should be the "finishing touch" to the process of learning; it should serve as the capstone to the process outlined in Bloom's Taxonomy.
A strength is that the method allows for an "intellectually open, safe, and demanding learning environment". This process may actually be better performed in the VCS as opposed to the TCS, where virtual anonymity allows students to truly feel at ease during the dialogue and explore the topic, whereas they may feel the peer pressure of "gazing eyes" in a TCS.
Author's Comment: The article explores the use of the Socratic Method and Bloom's Taxonomy in the VCS and TCS a bit more; for the purposes of this blog and topic I focused almost exclusively on the Dialectical methodology portion of the article.
As an analytic tool, the methodology is purely an internal, individual process. As a tool to engage with other analysts and experts to better understand a target, the Dialectical method may provide new and unique insight for the analyst. As an analytic process to develop an estimation, however, the methodology does not seem viable (save perhaps in some form reserved for the Humint realm).