The Socratic Method of learning (Re)defined and how to use it to achieve native-like fluency

Since Socrates never recorded his own teachings, our understanding of the Socratic method comes from the Socratic Dialogues, a series of stories written by his most famous student, Plato.The purpose of the Socratic method is to generate an open-ended discourse, so its own definition is vague and open to interpretation.

One way of defining the Socratic method is as “a systematic process for examining the ideas, questions, and answers that form the basis of human belief. It involves recognizing that all new understanding is linked to prior understanding, that thought itself is a continuous thread woven throughout lives rather than isolated sets of questions and answers.” [1]

The Socratic method is a way of thinking that allows individuals to define their own purpose for learning and explore this purpose through open-minded questioning of what they hold to be true.


The reason I wanted to share this piece with you is that one of the skills in the system of exercises to achieve native-like fluency - Questioning Your Own Ideas - suggests the same process.

You start questioning what YOU hold to be true.

You question the words that you think you know - again and again, so that you can achieve confidence.

You do not focus on the new words. First, you teach yourself to notice how you use the words that you already know.  Do you use words with confidence? Do you communicate your ideas with clarity? Are you sure that you know what these words mean? Then why do people keep getting confused?

Here is a fact:
You will use the English words that you do know to express your ideas (both in writing and in speaking). That's why it's worth getting into the habit of questioning what you already know and hold to be true - analyze your own writing in English and listen to the recordings of your own voice. Teach yourself to discern. Is what I know enough? Is what I know helping me to get my ideas across? Do people hear and understand me?

Do this simple exercise:
Take a line from your resume and ask yourself a question: Is this sentence accurately describing my achievements? Is it communicating the value that I can bring to an organization? Can I be misusing the language? Have I heard a native speaker say so?

Learning new words is tempting and sounds "easy". Yet, many people choose to "memorize" new words and fail to do the job of internalizing new vocabulary. When knowledge is unused, it "tends to drop out of mind", says Henry Hazzlit in "Thinking as a Science". Memorizing words doesn't imply "using" them. So, people forget new words easily within just a week, even if they spent hours memorizing them...

Ask yourself questions.
Self-reflection is one of the key skills for successful learners.
Develop this cognitive skill in English.

Question your own ideas. You're not a native speaker, and many of the things you hold to be true are simply not.

Practice the metacognitive approach. We have a video on how to use it with lots of examples right here.

Read more about Self-Reflection in Why Reflect? Effective Learning through Metacognition and Self-Regulation