Gently Socratic Inquiry

By Dr. Thomas E. Jackson
TABLE OF CONTENTS.................................................................................................................................2
INTRODUCTION TO P4C..............................................................................................................................3
WHAT IS GENTLY SOCRATIC p4c HAWAI’I STYLE! INQUIRY" .......................................................4
WHAT GENTLY SOCRATIC INQUIRY IS NOT ........................................................................................#
DE$ELOPING A p4c HAWAI’I STYLE CO%%UNITY OF INQUIRY ....................................................&
CREATING THE CO%%UNITY ..................................................................................................................'
%()*+, ( C-../+*01 B(22...........................................................................................................................'
%(,*c W-345................................................................................................................................................6
DE$ELOPING AN UNDERSTANDING OF p4c HAWAI’I STYLE INQUIRY.........................................7
T89 G--4 T8*+)93’5 T--2)*0..........................................................................................................................::
#! R9;29c0*+, -+ 089 5955*-+< F*+(221= *0 *5 *.p-30(+0 08(0 089 *+>/*31 c-../+*01 39;29c0 -+ 8-? ?922 *0
8(5 4-+9 -+ (+1 ,*@9+ 4(1. T89 ;-22-?*+, c3*093*( (39 5/,,95094= ?8*c8 089 09(c893 c(+ p3959+0 0- 089
,3-/p p3*-3 0- A9,*++*+, 089 *+>/*31 c1c29 (+4 (,(*+ (0 089 9+4 -; 9(c8 5955*-+. T89 c3*093*( ;(22 *+0- 0?-
c(09,-3*95= 08-59 49(2*+, ?*08 8-? ?9 4*4 (5 ( c-../+*01 (+4 08-59 49(2*+, ?*08 089 *+>/*31 *0592;........:3
THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER ..................................................................................................................:#
Gently Socratic Inquiry
Philosophy for Children (P4C) is the creation of Matthew Lipman. he idea for
P4C was !orn in "#$# when Lipman was teachin% at Colum!ia &ni'ersity. (e was
deeply concerned a!out his students) ina!ility to reason and ma*e sound +ud%ments.
Lipman)s concerns led to his de'elopment of a philosophically !ased ,-". curriculum
consistin% of / no'els and an accompanyin% teacher)s manual for each. P4C is now an
educational initiati'e in countries throu%hout the world. P4C see*s to de'elop
children)s a!ility to thin* for themsel'es and to learn to use that a!ility in responsi!le0
carin% ways.
In (awai)i0 inspired !y Lipman)s wor*0 P4C has e'ol'ed into 1p4c (awai)i Style20
where it continues to %row. (www.p4c(awai)i.or%)

3Gently Socratic3 inquiry reco%ni4es that a paramount o!+ecti'e of education is
to help students de'elop their a!ility to thin* for themsel'es and to learn to use this
a!ility in responsi!le ways. It also ac*nowled%es that much of current schoolin% still
falls short of helpin% students achie'e this. 5requently0 !y the time children reach 6rd
%rade0 the sense of wonder with which they entered *inder%arten - wonder out of
which authentic thin*in% and thus thin*in% for oneself de'elops - has !e%un to
diminish. 7y $th %rade it has practically disappeared. Children)s thin*in% focuses
instead on what the teacher e8pects. 9 ma+or contri!utin% factor to this loss of wonder
is the failure to properly nurture the true 'oices of children. :ue to a 'ariety of
pressures0 !oth internal and e8ternal0 the typical classroom teacher does not appear
to ha'e time for children)s %enuine wonderin% and questionin%0 from which structured
inquiries can %row.
his apparent lac* of time is e8acer!ated !y the fact that most teachers simply
ha'e ne'er !een e8posed to this type of inquiry. If teachers are e'er to do this
successfully in their own classrooms0 they need time and %uidance in learnin% how to
conduct such inquiries.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
he 1%entle3 in %ently Socratic inquiry in'ol'es hi%hli%htin% !oth a connection
and distinction from what Socrates and Socratic method too often ha'e come to
represent. Socrates is often portrayed as the consummate lawyer0 cle'erly
questionin% and manipulatin% his ad'ersary into an 39ha; Got you;3 position of
contradiction. Socratic method is construed as methodical questionin% and cross-
e8aminin%0 peelin% away layers of half-truths0 e8posin% hidden assumptions. he
Socratic method !ecomes an almost al%orithmic0 step-!y-step procedure.
he term 3%ently Socratic2 is meant to distance the nature of inquiry presented
here from Socratic method or the Socrates descri!ed a!o'e. (annah 9rendt ("#/<)
eloquently portrays the Socrates who she contends would !e worthy of the admiration
that history has !estowed upon him as a model thin*er and inquirer. Gently Socratic
inquiry draws its inspiration from this portrayal of Socrates.
he first connection with Socrates in %ently Socratic inquiry is dialo%ue. 9
salient feature of dialo%ue is not questionin% (let alone0 cross-e8amination) !ut
listenin%. :ialo%ue=s first interest is not to counter0 de!ate0 disa%ree0 lead0 or e8pose0
!ut to %enuinely and simply listen. his quality of listenin% requires settin% aside one=s
own thou%hts in order to !e truly open to what the other is sayin%. his is especially
important !ecause the 1other3 in this case will most often !e a child0 and %entleness
must !e foremost in one=s mind if one hopes to !e pri'ile%ed with an authentic
response from a child.
Many factors in contemporary teachin% and teacher preparation wor* a%ainst
the *ind of listenin% essential for %enuine Socratic inquiry. 9s Peter Sen%e su%%ests0
we all internali4e a mental model of what it means to !e a teacher. Central to this
tendency is the idea that the teacher is the one who is 3in the *now3 and the student
is the 1learner.3 oo often the teacher focuses her listenin% on hearin% an e8pected
answer or on pro!in% the student)s understandin% of a particular idea or concept.
3(as the student understood what I am tryin% to teach>3 is a stance that precludes the
*ind of listenin% that is essential for the success of %ently Socratic inquiry.
he focus on dialo%ue means that a particular relationship must de'elop
amon% the mem!ers of the classroom community that is quite different from standard
Gently Socratic Inquiry
classroom practice. his new relationship places much more emphasis on listenin%0
thou%htfulness0 silence0 care and respect for the thou%hts of others. he teacher
pro'ides ample time for students to e8press and clarify what they mean0 to
understand0 to respond to what others ha'e said0 and to del'e further into what other
students intended. 9!o'e all0 the classroom is an intellectually safe place that is not in
a rush to %et somewhere.
?hene'er possi!le0 students and teacher sit in a circle durin% inquiry time.
Students call on each other0 no lon%er relyin% on the teacher to carry this
responsi!ility. @ach has the opportunity to spea* or to pass and remain silent. In this
en'ironment0 inquiry will %row.
Gently Socratic inquiry is essentially a!out creatin% a particular place0 time0
and conte8t in the classroom within which to esta!lish a different relationship !etween
teacher and students. he teacher !ecomes a c!"#$%"&'& in dialo%ue with the
children0 rather than their %uide or sa%e. A'er time0 tools and criteria come into play
that enhance the quality and ri%or of the discourse and inquiry0 !ut always within the
conte8t of an intellectually safe place.
o de'elop the classroom community and the needed s*ills0 the teacher needs
to deli!erately set aside time for !oth. 9 minimum of two sessions per wee* is hi%hly
recommended. 9s the children internali4e the s*ills and procedures0 the strate%ies
and s*ills that emer%e from the inquiry sessions ultimately appear at other times of the
school day and in other content areas. he children !e%in to as* qualitati'ely different
sorts of question. hey also persist in see*in% to scratch !eneath the surface of a
te8t0 lesson0 or personal situation.
Gently Socratic inquiry is not a!out ha'in% a particular answer in mind
!eforehand. Bor is it a method in any al%orithmic sense. In particular it is not a
1Socratic Method.2 It in'ol'es certain s*ills0 !ut no method.
Gently Socratic inquiry is also not a pro%ram specifically for a tar%eted %roup
such as the %ifted. It wor*s with 'irtually any a!ility %roup0 or mi8 thereof.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
All participants in the Community feel free to ask virtually any question or state any vie so
lon! as respect for all community mem"ers is honore#$
Gently Socratic inquiry !e%ins !y de'elopin% a conte8t within which dialo%ue
and inquiry unfold. Certainly0 classrooms must !e physically safe places. 5or dialo%ue
and inquiry to occur they must !e emotionally and intellectually safe as well. In an
intellectually safe place there are no putdowns and no comments intended to !elittle0
undermine0 ne%ate0 de'alue0 or ridicule. ?ithin this place0 the %roup accepts 'irtually
any question or comment0 so lon% as it is respectful of the other mem!ers of the
circle. ?hat de'elops is a %rowin% trust amon% the participants and with it the
coura%e to present one=s own thou%hts0 howe'er tentati'e initially0 on comple8 and
difficult issues.
9nyone who *nows how to pretend they understand somethin% e'en thou%h
they don)t0 or who has !een in a conte8t where they had a question !ut were afraid to
as* it0 has felt the influence of a place that was not intellectually safe. Intellectual
safety is the !edroc* upon which inquiry %rows.
9n important detail rele'ant to intellectual safety is proper ac*nowled%ment of
the di'ersity of 'iews that emer%e in the course of 'arious inquiries. Intellectual safety
arises0 in part0 out of ac*nowled%in% and cele!ratin% this di'ersity. his is not the
same as sayin% there are 1no ri%ht or wron% answers2 or 3any answer is o*ay.3
Sometimes a student will fail to present reasons0 or well-thou%ht-out reasons0 to
support their answer. he %roup may not fully understand the implications of a
particular answer0 nor the assumptions that underlie them. A'er time0 the %roup
!e%ins to understand that it needs to ta*e these criteria into account in considerin% a
proposed answer. Mere unsupported opinion does not suffice.
@qually important is thisC he %oal is not to persuade anyone to any particular
answer0 !ut rather for e'eryone to reach a deeper understandin% of the comple8ity of
the issues in'ol'ed and a %reater a!ility to na'i%ate amon% these comple8ities.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
he most fa'ora!le confi%uration for de'elopin% a community is for the class0
includin% the teacher0 to sit in a circle0 on the floor if appropriate. &nli*e the more
traditional confi%uration with students in rows0 the circle allows all mem!ers of the
community to ma*e eye contact0 to see each other. In the ensuin% dialo%ue0
participants are !etter a!le to hear what others are sayin% and also to see how they
are sayin% itD in other words0 the facial e8pressions and mannerisms of those who are
spea*in%. he circle also facilitates seein% the impact on each other of the interaction.
?hat is the impact of acceptance or re+ection> Af careful listenin% as opposed to
9n early o!+ecti'e is to esta!lish a protocol where!y students feel empowered
to call on each other. Ane effecti'e acti'ity for accomplishin% this is to create a
1community !all2 to%ether as a way to %i'e shape to what will !ecome an inquiry
community. his acti'ity is effecti'e with %roups from *inder%arten throu%h uni'ersity.
)*+"#, * C--%#"./ B*00
Materials neededC
• empty card!oard paper towel core
• S*ein of multicolored yarn
• Ane 4ip-tie
". Place the 4ip-tie throu%h the center of the paper towel core.
.. ?rap yarn from the s*ein around the paper towel core.
6. ?hen finished wrappin%0 hold onto the 4ip-tie while pullin% the yarn off the
core. Eip-tie must remain in the center of the yarn coil. Loop and fasten
the 4ip-tie pulllin% it as ti%ht as possi!le0 formin% a !a%el shape from the
4. Cut throu%h the yarn at the outer ed%e0 creatin% a pom-pom !all.
he %roup sits in a circle. he teacher !e%ins wrappin% the yarn around the
paper towel core0 while the student ne8t to her feeds the yarn from the s*ein. he
teacher %oes first0 respondin% to a question or questions that each person in the circle
will answer in turn. hisFthese question(s) can !e anythin% the teacher thin*s will draw
out the children0 such as0 1?hat is your fa'orite food or music>2 or 1?hat do you li*e
Gently Socratic Inquiry
!est a!out school>2 ?hen the teacher finishes spea*in%0 she passes the card!oard
to the student !eside her0 who !e%ins to wrap and rap (;) as the teacher ta*es o'er
feedin% the yarn. his process - one person wrappin% and spea*in%0 and his nei%h!or
feedin% the yarn - continues until all ha'e had the opportunity to spea*.
Ance the %roup has made the !all0 the teacher presents these two rulesC (")
the person with the !all is the spea*er of the moment. hat person0 when finished0
may pass the !all to whome'er he or she wishes. (.) Ane always has the ri%ht to
9nother community-enhancin% strate%y is to introduce certain 1ma%ic words3
that mem!ers of the community can use to facilitate the inquiry. he use of ma%ic
words has !een effecti'e in de'elopin% a safe place where inquiry can unfold in a
non-threatenin% way. Children who are soft-spo*en are encoura%ed to spea* up
when someone in the %roup says 3SPL92 (spea* louder please). It)s o*ay to say 1
I:&S3 (I don)t understand). 9nd when se'eral people are spea*in% at once0
1PAP992 (please0 one person at a time) wor*s. he teacher and students can write
these 3words3 on cards and display them for all to see as needed. @ach %roup can0 of
course0 de'elop its own set of words. ?hate'er words you use0 they can !e
powerfully instrumental in de'elopin% a community where all mem!ers0 rather than
+ust the teacher0 share in the responsi!ility for mo'in% an inquiry forward and where
the mem!ers share a common 'oca!ulary with which to en%a%e in this tas*.
)*,"c W&12
• SPLAT G Spea* a little louder0 please. SPL9 means that what a person said +ust
!arely %ot out of their mouth and then went =splat= onto the floor. In other words0 we
need you to spea* louder so we can hear you.
• IDUS G I don=t understand. I:&S can empower students to !e a!le to say when
they don=t understand. It has pro'en much easier for students to say I:&S than 1I
don=t understand.2 eachers find it encoura%in% when I:&S !e%ins to show up in
other content areas.
• POPAAT G Please0 one person at a time. Ance students learn that durin% inquiry
time the %roup is 'ery interested in what they ha'e to say0 they often all want to
spea* at the same time. PAP99 is effecti'e in this conte8t. ?hen people start
spea*in% out of turn0 someone says PAP990 which means that all must stop
tal*in%. he person holdin% the !all then continues.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
• O)T G Ane more time. AM is a request for the spea*er to repeat what he has
• NQP G Bew question0 please.
• L)O G Lets mo'e on.
• PBQ G Please !e quiet.
• GOS G Goin% off su!+ect. 9 %roup mem!er can say GAS when the discussion is
losin% focus.
• OOT G Aut Af ime
Ance the teacher introduces the ma%ic words0 anyone may hold up a card or
say the appropriate ma%ic word. If the community seems !o%%ed down in a topic and
is not %ettin% anywhere0 someone may offer 3LMA3 to the community. 9t that moment0
the community 'otes to see if the ma+ority would indeed li*e to mo'e on. If a minority
still has interest in the topic0 they can pursue it at a later time.
Perhaps most !asic to successful p4c inquiry is the clear and shared
understandin% that 1we aren)t in a rush to %et anywhere.2 In other content areas there
is pressure to co'er the material0 to %et on with it. he dialo%ue and inquiry sessions
ha'e a different intention and feel. ?ithin this conte8t the followin% fi'e characteristics
are at the core of p4c inquiryC
(3) T4' 2%&c' 5 .4' "#$%"&/6 ?hene'er possi!le0 the inquiry arises out of
the questions and interests of the community0 !e%ins where the community is in its
understandin%0 and mo'es in directions that the community indicates. here are a
wide 'ariety of possi!le tri%%ers0 occasions0 and topics for inquiry. PL9IB H9BILL9II
is one strate%y or 1how to2 for findin% a topic and then %i'in% shape to an inquiry.
9 salient feature of %ently Socratic inquiry is its sensiti'ity to the interests and
questions of the community0 their thou%hts0 and where they ta*e the topic. @'en 'ery
youn% children %enerate sophisticated lines of inquiry from decepti'ely simple
!e%innin%s. Ane *inder%artnerD in response to the question0 1?hat do you wonder
a!out>3 answeredC 1he other ni%ht0 while I was %a4in% at the stars0 I wondered
whether anythin% came !efore space.3 In the discussion that ensued0 the children)s
Gently Socratic Inquiry
e8ploration ran%ed from dinosaurs to God. Ather inquiries ha'e e8plored such topics
as 1Could there !e a %reatest num!er>3 (6rd %rade)D 1?hat constitutes a ri%ht>3 and
1?hat is the purpose of ri%hts>2 (Jth %rade)D and 3?hat is more important- friends0
fame0 or fortune>3 ($th %rade) Ance children reali4e that the topics can indeed come
from them and !e pursued alon% lines they are interested in0 the quality of their
thin*in% is truly astoundin%.

(7) C!"#$%"&/6 In %ently Socratic inquiry0 no one0 not e'en the teacher0 *nows
either 1the3 answer to the question (if the inquiry !e%ins with a question) or where the
inquiry will lead. 9ny effort to %uide an inquiry to a predetermined answer or outcome
corrupts the process from the start. he dialo%ue de'elops its own inte%rity0 its own
mo'ement0 %oin% where 1it2 wants or needs to %o. 9t 'arious points it may !o% down
and need an occasional nud%e (1LMA3) !ut in the main0 the inquiry emer%es from the
conte8t. It frequently pushes what Hy%ots*y (Hy%ots*y0 "#<$D Lipman0 "##$) refers to
as the 14one of pro8imal de'elopment2 of all participants0 includin% the teacher.
Gently Socratic inquiry is co-inquiry in the !est sense. he teacher is not a
pri'ile%ed *nower. In such inquiries0 the children are not infrequently ahead of the
thin*in% of the teacher0 leadin% the inquiry down une8pected paths. Indeed0 what the
teacher *nows can interfere with participation in the unfoldin% inquiry.
(8) T4' 2'05!c&&'c."9' #*.%&' 5 .4' "#$%"&/6 Matthew Lipman ("##")0
followin% in the pra%matist tradition of the 9merican philosopher Charles Sanders
Peirce0 emphasi4ed the centrality of self-correcti'e inquiry. In classrooms where
inquiry has !ecome an essential and on%oin% acti'ity0 community mem!ers will
chan%e and de'elop their thou%ht a!out a particular topic. 17efore I thou%ht ....0 !ut
now I reali4e that . . . .3 !ecomes an increasin%ly common comment in a maturin%
inquiry community in the course of a school year. (
4) I#$%"&/ T02 (WRAITEC)6 Gently Socratic inquiry is more than a
con'ersation or sharin% of ideas within a %roup. It is characteri4ed !y an intellectual
ri%or that certain co%niti'e tools help facilitate. hese tools comprise the 3Good
hin*er=s ool ,it.3 hey are an important means for %i'in% shape and direction to the
notion that0 althou%h we aren)t in a rush to %et anywhere0 we do ha'e an e8pectation
that we will %et somewhere.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
T4' G1 T4"#+'&’2 T0+".
(elpin% students and teachers internali4e %ood thin*er)s tools of inquiry equips
them with the a!ility to thin* for themsel'es in a responsi!le way. ?ith sustained
e8perience in dialo%ue0 students !ecome more adept at %i'in% and as*in% for
reasons0 detectin% assumptions0 anticipatin% consequences0 reflectin% on inferences
they draw0 as*in% for clarification and see*in% e'idence and e8amples as well as
countere8amples. hey also learn to see* out alternati'es and to form criteria for the
+ud%ments they ma*e. he letters W: R: A: I: T: E: C represent the %ood thin*er=s tools
(Kac*son0 "#<#)C
W % &hat 4- 1-/C?9 .9(+ A1 ... "
W hi%hli%hts the importance of !ein% sensiti'e to possi!le multiplicity of
meanin%s and am!i%uity0 hence a readiness to see* clarification when needed.
R % A39 'easons A9*+, -;;9394 0- 5/pp-30 c2(*.5
R reflects that in inquiry one should e8pect that it is not enou%h to simply offer
opinion. ?hene'er possi!le0 %roup mem!ers should support their opinions with
A % A39 ?9 (?(39 -; (+4 *49+0*;1*+, )91 Assumptions A9*+, .(49"
A represents the importance of ma*in% e8plicit0 whene'er appropriate0 the
assumptions that underlie the discussion durin% inquiry.
I % A39 ?9 (?(39 -; Inferences A9*+, .(49 (+4 p-55*A29 Implications -; ?8(0 *5 A9*+, 5(*4"
I hi%hli%hts the central role of inferences we mi%ht ma*e0 of possi!le
implications of what someone has said0 and of hypothetical statements such as0
1I5 what Kody said is true0 .4'# Lreal) can)t !e +ust thin%s we can see or touch.3
T % I5 ?8(0 *5 A9*+, 5(*4 True" H-? c-/24 ?9 ;*+4 -/0"
T indicates that a ma+or concern in our inquiry is the question of whether or not
what someone has stated is in fact true0 and how we mi%ht %o a!out findin% out.
E % A39 E(ample A9*+, ,*@9+ -3 *5 Evi#ence A9*+, -;;9394 0- 5/pp-30 -3 *22/503(09 c2(*.5"
E points out the importance of %i'in% e8amples to illustrate or clarify what
someone is sayin% and of pro'idin% e'idence to support a claim.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
C % A39 08939 (+1 Counter)e(amples 0- 089 c2(*. A9*+, .(49"
C represents an important chec* on assertions or claims that possi!ly cast too
wide a net. 5or e8ample0 1always2 or 1ne'er2 frequently occur in con'ersations0
such as 1he !oys always %et to %o first2 or 1?e ne'er %et to stay up late.2 he
search for countere8amples is a way of chec*in% the truth of such a claim. 5or
e8ample0 3Mou %et to stay up late if it)s a holiday3 is a countere8ample.
Ane su%%ested class acti'ity is to ma*e ool ,its to%ether0 so that each student
has her own *it. Students desi%n 6 8 J cards0 one for each letter0 writin% on the !ac*
of each card whate'er clarifyin% notes will help them remem!er the si%nificance of
each letter. ?hen desirin% a reason from someone who is spea*in%0 a student
displays the [R] card. If an important assumption is %oin% unnoticed0 a student can
show the [A] card0 and so on.
he class should also de'ote time0 separate from the inquiry session0 to
!ecomin% more familiar with each tool. In the course of an inquiry0 anyone can place a
card representin% a %i'en tool in the circle when they want to use that particular tool.
his can facilitate the e'aluation of the session at the end0 as it ma*es apparent
which tools made their appearance in the course of the day=s inquiry.
Ane of the %oals in de'elopin% inquiry s*ills is learnin% to 1scratch !eneath the
surface2 of any topic or question. he acti'e use of the %ood thin*er=s tools is one
indication that 1=scratchin%2= is occurrin%. In addition0 there are at least three types of
pro%ress that can result from effecti'e p4c session.
Ane form of pro%ress occurs when an inquiry re'eals how complicated the
question or topic really is. 9t the end of the session0 thin%s mi%ht well appear (for
some;)0 confusin%0 in a muddle0 more mi8ed up than in the !e%innin%. his muddle is
an important form of pro%ress when participants reali4e that the topic was much more
comple8 than they thou%ht at first. hose e8periencin% confusion should !e
supported in their ha'in% the coura%e to e8perience and !e with this confusion. It is a
mar* of a more mature thin*er to !e a!le to deal with confusion and wor* toward
%reater clarity.
9nother form of pro%ress is when connections !e%in to emer%e amon% the
'arious ideas that present themsel'es in the course of the inquiry. 5or e8ample0 an
inquiry that !e%an with the question0 2?hat does it mean to say0 =hat wasn)t fair=>3
Gently Socratic Inquiry
led a %roup of 6rd %raders to questions of whether it wasn)t fair !ecause someone
was treated differently0 and whether treatin% someone differently is e'er consistent
with !ein% fair. he children there!y made a connection !etween 3fair2 and 1how
someone is treated.3
9 third type of pro%ress is when the shape of an answer !e%ins to emer%e. In
the fairness inquiry a!o'e0 3how one is treated= mi%ht emer%e as a criterion of fairness
such that it mi%ht !e proposed that 3If a person is treated differently in a particular sort
of way0 then that wouldn)t !e fair.3
It is important to reco%ni4e that 'arious participants in the same inquiry may
indi'idually e8perience different types of pro%ress. 5or some0 it may +ust !e a muddle.
5or others0 connections may !e%in to emer%e0 while still others may !e%in to ha'e an
answer in mind. @ach form of pro%ress has 'alue and merit. 9 'alua!le e8ercise is to
ha'e students *eep +ournals of inquiry sessions to promote an on%oin% internal
dialo%ue for each indi'idual.
Certainly there will !e days and times when it appears that students are
not ma*in% pro%ress in any of these ways. Met there may !e pro%ress of a different0
equally important *ind. 5or e8ample0 in a %i'en session0 a particularly quiet student
may feel mo'ed to participate 'er!ally for the first time. In this way the stren%th of the
whole community %rows.
(;) R'50'c."#, # .4' 2'22"#6 5inally0 it is important that the inquiry
community reflect on how well it has done on any %i'en day. he followin% criteria are
su%%ested0 which the teacher can present to the %roup prior to !e%innin% the inquiry
cycle and a%ain at the end of each session. he criteria fall into two cate%ories0 those
dealin% with how we did as a community and those dealin% with the inquiry itself.
(ow did we do as a community>
• L"2.'#"#,-?as I listenin% to others> ?ere others listenin% to me>
• P*&."c"p*."#-:id most people participate rather than +ust a few who
• S*5'./-?as it a safe en'ironment>
(ow was our inquiry>
• Fc%2-:id we maintain a focus>
• D'p.4-:id our session scratch !eneath the surface0 open up the topic0
Gently Socratic Inquiry
ma*e some ("0.0 N or 6) pro%ress>
• U#1'&2.*#1"#,-:id I increase my understandin% of the topic>
• T4"#+"#,-:id I challen%e my own thin*in% or wor* hard at it>
• I#.'&'2.-?as it interestin%>
9t some point it is important for the %roup to discuss more fully what each
criterion means. ?hat0 for e8ample0 counts as participation> :oes one need to spea*
in order to participate> ?hat does it mean to scratch !eneath the surface> 9t an
appropriate time0 the teacher can introduce the notion of three types of pro%ress and
the use of the 'arious tools as indicators of scratchin% or its a!sence.
he e'aluation can occur in a 'ariety of ways. he teacher can list each
criterion on a separate card. She displays each card one at a time0 and the mem!ers
indicate how they thou%ht the community did on that criterion with 1thum!s up2 or
1thum!s down.3 9 thum! midway !etween up and down indicates neutral. 9t first the
teacher can handle the cards0 !ut as soon as possi!le it is useful to as* indi'idual
students to ta*e a particular card and as* the %roup for their response to that criterion.
9s the community %ains e8perience0 it can esta!lish a standard for what 1thum!s up3
means within the conte8t of the e8periences of that community.
Oelated to e'aluation of an inquiry session is a feature that will ine'ita!ly
emer%e where'er inquiry has !ecome a re%ular part of the classroomC Ance
intellectual safety is firmly in place0 di'ersity of 'iewpoints will ma*e their appearance.
Ane way of preparin% for this is to ma*e clear that with comple8 topics0 one can
e8pect a num!er of le%itimate0 different points of 'iew. Indeed0 as indi'iduals0 we may
ha'e differin% points of 'iew at different points in time.
9t the end of a discussion into whether a particular action was fair0 or indeed
any other topic of similar comple8ity0 it is important to ac*nowled%e at least four
possi!le places someone mi%ht !e in their thin*in% at any %i'en time. hey mi%ht !e
prepared to answer0 1Mes0 I thin* it was fair02 or 2Bo0 I don)t thin* it was fair03 !ut also0
importantly0 they mi%ht !e at an 1I don)t *now3 or =May!e so3 place.
9s*in% students and teacher to raise their hands in response to where their
thin*in% is on the particular topic is a way of displayin% to the %roup the di'ersity of
their thin*in% on a particular issue. 9s*in% for such a display of hands is also a way of
!rin%in% closure to an inquiry that is still on%oin% !ut must pause !ecause it is time for
Gently Socratic Inquiry
lunch0 recess0 or another class.
he teacher is a!solutely pi'otal to the success of %ently Socratic inquiry. In
the !e%innin% it will !e the teacher who introduces the ideas !ehind such inquiry. She
will !e responsi!le for esta!lishin%0 monitorin%0 and maintainin% the safety within the
%roup. his will include monitorin% the proper use of the community !all and callin% on
each other and seein% that mem!ers ha'e ample opportunity to spea* as well as
permission to remain silent. ?ith youn%er %rades0 for e8ample0 one pro!lem that can
appear initially is that !oys only call on !oys0 %irls call on %irls0 or close friends call on
each other.
he teacher is responsi!le for introducin% the ma%ic words and seein% to their
proper use. In some cases0 students may initially a!use the freedom offered !y these
words and repeatedly utter 3SPL92 (spea* louder please) to someone who is shy0 or
1LMA2 (let)s mo'e on) the moment there is any pause in the dialo%ue.
he teacher conducts the lessons that in'ol'e ma*in% the ool ,it and follow-
up lessons that focus on a particular tool. 5or most students and many teachers0
3inference2 and 1assumption2 are little more than 'oca!ulary words. he %roup needs
to spend time on de'elopin% deeper understandin% of what these terms mean.
Similarly0 what ma*es a reason a %ood reason0 how countere8amples function0 and
how one mi%ht %o a!out findin% out whether a %i'en claim or statement is true may !e
areas where understandin% is currently quite shallow. In early sessions the teacher
should call attention to uses of the 'arious tools and encoura%e their use.
Most importantly0 it is the teacher0 especially in the !e%innin%0 who sets the
time for the %roup. 1Bot !ein% in a rush2 depends on a teacher sufficiently comforta!le
with silence and 3wait time3 !eyond what is typical in most classrooms. It requires a
teacher whose own sense of wonder is still 'ery much ali'e and who is *eenly
interested in what the authentic thou%hts of the community are on a %i'en topicD one
who is comforta!le with uncertainty0 not ea%er to push for closure !ut willin% to allow
an inquiry to mo'e where 1it2 and the community seem to want to ta*e it. She must !e
willin% to ris* not *nowin% the answerD to indeed !e a co-inquirer in the quest for an
Gently Socratic Inquiry
Initially the teacher needs to ma*e the crucial +ud%ments a!out usin% !oth
Ma%ic ?ords and Good hin*er=s ools. he teacher is the one who as*s for reasons0
e8amples0 and clarification0 at the same time displayin% letters that represent the
particular tool requested0 at once modelin% and hi%hli%htin% their use.
he teacher assists wea'in% threads of con'ersation into dialo%ue0 as*in% who
a%rees or disa%rees or has other thou%hts a!out the topic at hand0 offerin% a
countere8ample0 as*in% 1If what anya said is true0 would it follow that ... >3 or ma*in%
some other comment to nud%e the dialo%ue alon%. his is especially delicate and
challen%in% !ecause a ma+or o!+ecti'e is for the children to internali4e and thus ta*e
o'er these s*ills and !eha'iors. hey need as much opportunity as possi!le to try
them out and pro'idin% these opportunities is the teacher=s responsi!ility.
It is the teacher who !rin%s a %i'en session to a close and sees to it that the
%roup conducts an e'aluation. (ow lon% are inquiry sessions> ?ith *inder%arten
children they last from "P minutes to more than an hour. Sessions with older children
tend to !e more predicta!le in terms of len%th0 !ut also more su!+ect to the time
demands of the school day and curriculum.
In this *ind of inquiry0 the teacher=s role is to !e peda%o%ically stron% !ut
philosophically self-effacin%. he teacher should !e firmly in control of the procedures
!ut allow the content of the inquiry to unfold0 as it needs to0 rather than followin% the
desires of the teacher.
9s the community %rows and matures it will mo'e from 1!e%innin%2 to
1emer%in%20 where the other mem!ers of the community internali4e the protocols0 call
on each other0 spontaneously !e%in to use the tool*it letters and so on. 5inally0 in a
1mature2 community0 the teacher will !e0 in a sense0 a co-equal facilitatorFparticipant.
Gently Socratic Inquiry
• 9rendt0 (.("#/<). T4' 0"5' 5 .4' -"#1. Bew Mor*C (arcourt 7race Ko'ano'ich.
• Kac*son0 .("#<#). P4"02p4/ 5& c4"01&'#6 A ,%"1' 5& .'*c4'&2. Copyri%ht
Q "#<# homas @. Kac*son (unpu!lished wor*) 9ll Oi%hts Oeser'ed
• &npu!lished manuscript.
• Lipman0 M. ("#<P). P4"02p4/ "# .4' c0*22&- (7
'1<). PhiladelphiaC
emple &ni'ersity Press.
• Lipman0 M. ("##"). T4"#+"#, "# '1%c*."#. Bew Mor*C Cam!rid%e &ni'ersity
• Lipman0 M.("##$). N*.*24*. Bew Mor*C eachers Colle%e0 Colum!ia &ni'ersity.
• Hy%ots*y0 L.("#<$). T4%,4. *#1 0*#,%*,'. Cam!rid%e0 M9C MI Press.
I BoteC his is a re'ised 'ersion of 1he 9rt and Craft of LGently Socratic) Inquiry20
pu!lished in :e'elopin% MindsC 9 Oesource for eachin% hin*in%0 (6
edition)0 9rthur
L. Costa (editor)0 9SC: (9ssociation for Super'ision N Curriculum :e'elopment)0
9le8andria0 Hir%inia0 .PP".
S.'p 3< R'*1 ! 9 para%raph or two0 an episode0 a chapter0 or a whole story. (Hariations
of Plain Hanilla includeC loo*in% at a paintin%0 watchin% a 'ideo0 readin% a poem0
listenin% to a piece of music0 or selectin% a topic from a =wonder !o8= into which
questions ha'e !een placed.

S.'p 7< Q%'2."#2 – @ach mem!er of the community is as*ed to pose a question or
comment !ased on the readin% or other option mention in Step ". hese questions are
then posted for all to see. (AptionalC each person also writes his or her name ne8t to
his or her question or comment.)

S.'p 8< (.' ! he community 'otes for the question or comment they would li*e to
inquire into first.
S.'p 4< D"*0,%'=I#$%"&/ ! Inquire into the question selected0 usin% ?O9I@C (letters
from the tool*it) and ma%ic words as appropriate
S.'p ;< R'50'c. ! &se criteria a%reed upon !y the community to e'aluate how the
session was0 !oth in terms of community (intellectual safety0 etc.) and inquiry.