Maybe it is for younger people, but what are better ways for adults? What is better for andragogy?

  • Socratic circles may be of interest to you. In my opinion, there is no universal method (a "best way" would be universal) for teaching adults in the same way there is no speech which is universally persuasive.
    – 000
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 1:38
  • thanks, this question was the claim from another question
    – adamaero
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 3:52
  • 3
    Why would the Socratic Method be better for children than adults? (Bear in mind that Plato himself said philosophy was inappropriate for children until they had developed a strong sense of right and wrong) Also --what are you trying to accomplish through teaching philosophy? What is it you think people gain from learning philosophy, and what would characterize a good method of learning philosophy in your view? Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 7:04
  • Is that so,are you really sure, if I give you new information will it change your mind or are we there yet ,is it sin qua non? Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


The Socratic Method is the best way to teach any person because it requires that the pupil make attempts to solve the problems before being comprehensively shown how to do so. Philosophy is a prime example, but it applies to everything, even mathematics or computer programming. In philosophy, mathematics, computer programming, lecturers often say something like:

We want you to start *thinking like a [philosopher | computer scientist | mathematician].

This indicates already that to be any of these things, you need to think for yourself and you need to think in a certain way. Your thinking needs to become structured, not to preclude novel, out of the box approaches to problems but to enable you to understand what you are learning in your own terms, rather than simply memorising somebody else's terms.

The Socratic Method is ideal because, as I said, as an instructor you will appeal to your students to think about how to solve a problem and the only way they will arrive at the correct answer is to think like a philosopher, computer scientist or mathematician. The further advantage with the Socratic Method is that you will require your students to justify their answer, so even if they happen on the correct answer or a strong thesis, they have to understand why it is correct or strong in order to be right.

Thus when a student gives an incorrect answer, you reply with an explanation of the flaws in their logic and they will have a blueprint for how to improve; when a student answers correctly, they are made aware of the fact that their thinking was correct and that they should refine and apply their way of thinking to future questions.

In epistemological terms, you can view the Socratic Method as a way of embedding procedural knowledge in your students, rather than making them memorise propositional knowledge. In computer science terms, you are giving students imperative knowledge rather than declarative knowledge. You are not just feeding them definitions and rules from which they would be lucky to intuit the abstract nature of the subject at hand; you are not even just giving them a recipe or an instruction set leading to the correct answer for them to analyse. You are making the students think about how to formulate such a recipe and inviting them to challenge rules, to play Devil's advocate, all for the purpose of being wrong.

Obviously some people possess natural talents, truly intuitive grasps of subjects like mathematics, but the Socratic Method appeals to all students. It refines the students who are already adept and it brings the uninitiated up to speed by forcing them to make mistakes. If we do not grasp something intuitively, we learn by trial and error, and what better way to force trial and error than to ask your students to give answers before being comprehensively shown how to answer? They will make mistakes and they will learn from them.

Once you have students thinking for themselves, you can expect for your students to eventually challenge you—the definition of a great teacher according to Aristotle:

The sign of a great teacher is that the accomplishments of his students exceed his own.


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