"Socratic inquiry" is named for the Greek philosopher Socrates, who believed that questions — not answers — stimulate learning.
Rather than teaching facts and information, Socrates encouraged young people to question their assumptions, values, and preconceptions.
Through this process, students uncover their beliefs, misconceptions, and values, and eventually clarify their thoughts related to the topic under discussion.
Through engaging in Socratic discussions, students can become more adept at critical thinking, improve their listening skills, learn to better articulate their thoughts and ideas, and become more tolerant of diverse opinions.
In Socratic inquiry, the role of the teacher shifts from direct instruction to facilitating discussion. Through skilled questioning, the teacher asks students to clarify their statements, identify weaknesses in their arguments, and provide evidence for their reasoning.
The Center for Ecoliteracy has developed curriculum grounded in Socratic inquiry, such as a teacher's guide for the highly publicized film Food, Inc. Through this curriculum, high school students discuss and debate issues such as animal welfare, workers' rights, the right to know what is in our food, and the copyrighting of genetically modified plants. By debating controversial issues, students come to a more sophisticated understanding of their complexities.