ELI Blog

What does the Socratic Method have to do with training?

|August 17, 2017|No Comments

Have you ever stopped to consider that the way training is delivered has a direct impact on its effectiveness? All too often, training in the corporate arena is provided using a lecture based format. The problem is, this setup is passive for everyone except the presenter and often fails to engage employees. Leveraging the Socratic method during training is a more engaging and beneficial alternative.

What Is the Socratic Method?

The Socratic method is a trusted approach to interactive discussion. The facilitator asks questions to inspire group debate. The questions are designed to help participants identify their own underlying assumptions. It connects learners to subject matter, allowing them to grapple with topic details.

The Socratic method requires that learners articulate the deeper meanings of abstract subjects. It’s easy to agree that integrity is good and harassment is bad; it’s harder to make difficult choices when interacting with people whose interpretations may differ from your own. The Socratic method allows groups to wrestle with definitions in a safe environment before real-life circumstances arise.

How Does the Socratic Method Affect Training?

First, the Socratic method increases training retention. The question and answer format requires employees to think. Employees remember things that they’ve put effort into learning.

Second, employees learn from each other. During discussions, team members inevitably discuss real-life situations that lecturers can’t anticipate. This personalizes the training for everyone. The training is no longer about rules descending from a corporate handbook but about shared principles among peers. Socratic discussion emphasizes individual participation in a group dynamic and can lead to camaraderie and shared values.

In addition, the Socratic method improves implementation. When employees actively engage with the material and discuss each other’s opinions in an open forum, they are more likely to put their training into action in the workplace.

What Difference Does It Make?

Lectures require far less engagement than the Socratic method does. Attendees simply consume a message. At best, employees may be able to recognize a few definitions on a follow-up assessment. But parroting a high-level definition doesn’t achieve bottom-line results.

Training built on the Socratic method multiplies the value that each employee contributes to the organization. When employees internalize new skills and organization guidelines, they can perform more competently, legally, and enthusiastically.

Organizations often underestimate the benefits of quality training, opting for lectures and presentations that provide little more than legal protection. The world’s best organizations think differently. They pursue training that offers a tangible return on investment. That means getting employees more involved.

It’s All About Engagement

Using the Socratic method effectively starts with skilled trainers who know how to engage the group. The best facilitators know the right questions to ask to get employees thinking, talking, and acting. Engagement is essential, and the Socratic method is the place to start when looking for strategic corporate training.


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