In the 1980s I taught in an education project called Project SEED which teaches algebra and calculus to elementary school students who are classified as both belonging to a minority and within a poverty-level demographic. If this sounds interesting on its own merit, consider that the project employed a learning paradigm called the Discovery Method, an approach I would classify as "Socratic Learning."
The fundamental principle of this method is that students are guided (through carefully-crafted teacher questions) to "invent" the target content themselves. The teacher does not use lecture or materials to didactically convey the subject matter. Advantages of using this method are:
This approach is not well suited for factually-oriented subject matter, such as history and foreign languages. In such cases, a mix of rote learning techniques (for the factual material that requires memorization) and Socratic (for the material that can be deduced, reasoned, and inferred through thought process alone) might be used.
The following describes a typical scenario of a Project SEED class taught using Socratic Learning:
In terms of rendering this approach through technology, an Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) such as AutoTutor® already models many elements of Socratic Learning and effectively reproduces the dynamic questioning skills of a Socratic teacher. However, current ITSs are designed only for one-on-one tutoring.
ITSs could be designed for synchronous group learning as well. There are significant advantages for students to learn Socratic style in groups; perhaps most important is that students can get and give feedback to peers, drawing on the greater pool of intelligence and knowledge afforded by a group versus a single student to "invent" the material.
Here is a scenario for how an ITS could operate to support synchronous group learning.
This manner of teaching and learning describes one approach to recognizing that learners of all ages are not showing up as "blank slates," but instead bring all manner of previous knowledge and intelligence to bear on their own and others' learning and are not seen as passive "knowledge receptacles." Leveraging these notions to effectively meet educational and training objectives on a large scale is an important challenge for next generation education/training technology.