A wise man said: “If I have an apple and you have an apple and we exchange our apples, no one gains anything. But if I have an idea and you have an idea and we exchange our ideas, be both will be twice richer!” Here I would like to lay out some of the ideas/questions, which you - the reader - might find interesting to think about, and maybe to discuss (many of them had come to mind when finishing a class and driving to teach another one, or during meetings with teachers or colleagues).

Would you agree or answer that …

 Teaching is guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering the subject, i.e. understanding the topics and developing skills.

 Teaching = motivating + demonstrating + instructing + explaining

 Learning = goal making + memorizing + reiterating + thinking

 Understanding = making sense of the things by connecting the previous knowledge with the current experience.

 A good teacher is not the one who just loves teaching, but the one who loves learning and is passionate in sharing this love.

 If a person can learn the multiplication table he or she can learn quantum gravitation, and there are only two reasons for that not happening - no desire, or a wrong teacher.

 If you are a good teacher, your students understand your solutions to problems, if you are a great teacher, your students generate their own solutions.

 Everybody can drive, but not everyone is a good driver, everybody can cook, but not everyone is a chef, why do people think that anybody can be a good teacher?

 The best gift a parent can give to a child is good habits; the best gift a teacher can give to a student is love for learning.

 Look at infants – they always try things and want to learn something new! Now look at school graduates – so many of them do not want to learn anything new. Do we really need schools like that?

 The art of teaching is based on the science of learning, the love for education, and the passion for sharing this love.

 Teachers - like doctors – must take “ a Hippocratic Oath of a Teacher” or at least promise “never do harm to anyone”, because there is always something more important in teaching than merely transmitting knowledge.

 If a person does not like challenge and does not like learning, that person should not go into the business of education in any form; she/he is not going too be a good teacher, or administrator or a researcher in the field.

 If the only exercise students had been doing for 12 years is squats, they will not be good at push-ups and pull-ups. Why do we expect from graduates an ability to think if all they had to do for 12 years is memorizing facts? 

 True learning never happens by watching, it happens by doing.

 You can watch for hours other people swimming, but if you want to learn how to swim you have to get yourself into water and start trying.

 Reading (and watching, and listening) helps to form an initial vocabulary, and to set relationships between the current knowledge and the upcoming one. Doing forms the skills.

 The “learning space” of students in a class is (essentially) three dimensional: they might differ by their 1. background (previously learned knowledge and skills); 2. learnability (rate and volume of attaining knowledge and skills as a function of time and effort); 3. motivation (aspirations and willingness to learn).

 Kids do not know anything and learn everything from scratch. When adults learn new skills they repeat the same general steps and stages of learning they used to use when where kids (but usually/hopefully faster).

 Could someone tell me, please, what new fundamental scientific facts and relationships had been discovered in the science of education over the last decades?

 There are three kinds of research projects: the goal of a scientific research project is discovering new knowledge; the goal of an engineering research project is building a new device; the goal of a social research project is developing new human practice.

 When a physicist is trying to understand how the Nature works, he/she uses a scientific approach based on clear terminology and well-defined measuring tools and procedures. Why does the same person stop using the scientific approach when trying to understand the way he/she teaches?

(© 2006 - 2014 Valentin Voroshilov)

  Why is that people praising the Socratic method often distaste when it is applied to them?

People who prize the Socratic method should keep in mind how did he end his life.

 For Socrates knowledge a person has defines that person as a whole. When Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing” he did not just accept limits of his knowledge, he accepted his limits as a human being. Unfortunately, expecting same from others had lead Socrates to willingly drinking poison.

During my long career as a teacher I have met many instructors, faculty members, officials, and some political figures who praised the Socratic method as a most welcomed contemporary teaching method.

Further analysis had shown several interesting differences between Socrates (as seen by historians) and many of his modern followers.


Some of the modern followers

Did not work for money

I have not seen anyone refusing taking money for a lecture or a consultation

Did not care about his status

For many fame was a life sweetener

Was indifferent to people not liking him

Really liked to be the center of attention

Was open to a conversation to anyone

Many were approachable only for people with a certain status

Praised challenging questions

Often distasted when the Socratic method was applied to them, were very defensive, considered challenging questions as an attack on the status


From the wikepedea:

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socrates

 Socrates (pron.: /ˈsɒkrətiːz/; Greek: Σωκράτης, Ancient Greek pronunciation: [sɔːkrátɛːs], Sōkrátēs; c. 469 BC – 399 BC)[1] was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.

Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic method or method of "elenchus", which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice. To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer a person would seek. 

 the Socratic method; a series of questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge.  was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.


Socratic method has become a very fashionable innovation in teaching.

Many people involved in education promote Socratic method as a powerful tool for developing critical thinking.

For example, http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/socratic-teaching/606 describes “Socratic Teaching” as “The oldest, and still the most powerful, teaching tactic for fostering critical thinking”. The website continues: “In Socratic teaching we focus on giving students questions, not answers.” This sentiment, that Socratic method is based on asking questions, is a common ground for all descriptions of Socratic teaching. Of course, not every question is good (remember kinds asking questions about everything, do they use Socratic thinking?).

A Socratic questioner should: 
a) keep the discussion focused
b) keep the discussion intellectually responsible
c) stimulate the discussion with probing questions
d) periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved
e) draw as many students as possible into the discussion.”

Well, this description works and any meaningful question people use when discussing serious matters. Does it mean that Socratic method is merely asking meaningful questions? Does it mean that any teacher who asking questions to students is applying Socratic method?

I leave the answers to theses questions to you, the Reader.

But, please, keep in mind that Socrates was not asking questions about math or geology. When Socrates was asking questions to a person, the aim of his questions was (a) to help the answerer to formulate his own life values, then (b) to make the answerer see if his actions would be aligned with his values, and then (c) to make the answerer reflect on any dissonance between the actions and the values. It is also worth to mention, that as the result Socrates had no many friends (people become very defensive when the true Socratic method is being applied to them).