Teaching and the Socratic Method

One of my many passions is teaching.  I love to learn new things, and as an auto-didact, I am always discovering something new and exciting.  I love this new knowledge so much that I can’t help but have a strong desire to share it.  Most of my knowledge comes from field outside of the common range of knowledge.  Lately, I’ve been studying Quantum Physics, Relativity, Sleight of Hand, Skepticism, and Evolution.  These are not things the common person knows much about.  So many times, when I’m trying to share this knowledge with someone, what I’m really doing is teaching this new idea to them, whether it’s recognized as such or not.

One of my greatest joys, however, is teaching in front of a class.  Over the course of my life, I’ve taught music classes, physics classes, and computer classes.  I think the physics classes were my favorite because they were the most hands-on.  I taught model rocketry and the physics behind it.

My classes were very different than other classes.  Instead of writing information on the board, I asked questions.  Eventually, it was the class that provided the answers, even though they did not previously know the answer.  This is the most powerful way to teach, and it is known as the Socratic Method.

Plato / Socrates believed that the Socratic Method worked because we already contained the entire knowledge of the universe, we only had to access it for the first time in order to know it.  This was an extension of their ‘Theory of Forms,’ in which our knowledge of the physical world was merely a reflection of some sort of abstract form of things.

Though I love the Socratic Method, I completely reject this sort of reasoning.

Why does the Socratic Method work, then?  Because man is a reasoning being.  We are capable of logic and building upon previous knowledge in order to gain new knowledge.

The students I had in the rocketry class had little concept of the newtonian equations, but they could very easily figure out the equations for velocity and acceleration, and from there we could derive the rest.  Physics was no longer “hard” for them, it was something they were able to come up with themselves!  Here is an account of a man teaching a third grade class binary math using the Socratic Method.

I don’t think you can top that.  Most college students have trouble with Binary math.

I detest how most classes are taught today.  Some information is written on the chalkboard, or – if you’re really unlucky – a powerpoint presentation, and you’re expected to memorize it.  Most students my age have no concept of expanding their own knowledge mere through thought because of this.  They expect the knowledge to just be given to them whenever they need it.

It can be very frustrating, and that is part of what has led me to be much more cynical.  It’s hard to have faith in the human mind when people are too ignorant to figure out and remember how to cut and paste on a computer, or do any sort of other extremely easy task.

Do you have a brain?  Use it, for crying out loud!  When I have a question, or I wonder how something works, or I need to know how to do something, depending on what it is, I tend to do one of these things:

1. Start Expirementing with different things
2. Take something apart and put it back together
3. Look it up in Google and/or Wikipedia
4. Look at the situation from different points of view (literally or figuratively)
5. Other

I had to add the last category in there because there isn’t a real set of things.  All these are concerned with one thing: getting more information.

So think and question things!  When you hear something new, ask yourself if it is inline with your own observations and if it’s possible if your own point of view could be incorrect.

After all, what good is having a mind if you never use it?