Tutorial on Problem-Based Learning

Taxonomy of Socratic Questioning

Steps - Background - Socratic Taxonomy - Brainstorming - Research Plan - References

The taxonomy of Socratic questions, created by Richard Paul, is not a hierarchy in the traditional sense. The categories build upon each other, but they do not necessarily follow a pattern or design. One question's response will lead into another category of questioning not predetermined by the teacher/facilitator. In keeping with the PBL philosophy, this aspect of the model is most conducive! The role of the skilled teacher/facilitator is to keep the inquiry "train on track," but, also, to allow the students to "travel to a viable destination" of their own design.

The following table has been adapted from:

Paul, Richard, Critical Thinking: How to Prepare Students for a Rapidly Changing World, 1993.

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

 Questions of Clarification

Questions that Probe Assumptions

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

What do you mean by ____?

What is your main point?

How does _____ relate to _____?

Could you put that another way?

Is your basic point _____ or _____?

What do you think is the main issue here?

Let me see if I understand you; do you mean _____ or _____?

How does this relate to our problem/discussion/issue?

What do you, Mike, mean by this remark? What do you take Mike to mean by his remark?

Jane, can you summarize in your own words what Richard said? . . . Richard, is this what you meant?

Could you give me an example?

Would this be an example, . . .?

Could you explain this further?

Would you say more about that?

Why do you say that?

What are you assuming?

What is Jenny assuming?

What could we assume instead?

You seem to be assuming _____. Do I understand you correctly?

All of your reasoning depends on the idea that _____. Why have you based your reasoning on _____ instead of _____?

You seem to be assuming _____. How do you justify taking that for granted?

Is that always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?

Why would someone make that assumption?

What would be an example?

How do you know?

Why do you think that is true?

Do you have any evidence for that?

What difference does that make?

What are your reasons for saying that?

What other information do you need?

Could you explain your reasons to us?

Are these reasons adequate?

Why do you say that?

What led you to that belief?

How does that apply to this case?

What would change your mind?

But, is that good evidence for that belief?

Is there a reason to doubt that evidence?

Who is in a position to know that is true?

What would you say to someone who said that ____?

 Can someone else give evidence to support that view?

By what reasoning did you come to that conclusion?

How could we find out if that is true?

Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives  Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences  Questions about the Question

The term "imply" will require clarification when used with younger students.

What are you implying by that?

When you say _____, are you implying _____?

But, if that happened, what else would happen as a result? Why?

What effect would that have?

Would that necessarily happen or only possibly/probably happen?

What is an alternative?

If _____ and _____ are the case, then what might also be true?

If we say that ____ is ethical, how about _____?

How can we find out?

What does this question assume?

Would _____ ask this question differently?

How could someone settle this question?

Can we break this question down at all?

Is this question clear? Do we understand it?

Is this question easy or hard to answer? Why?

Does this question ask us to evaluate something? What?

Do we all agree that this is the question?

To answer this question, what other questions must we answer first?

I'm not sure I understand how you are interpreting this question. Is this the same as _____?

How would _____ state the issue?

Why is this issue important?

Is this the most important question, or is there an underlying question that is really the issue?

Back to Top