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Snigdha Jain, MD

Blogger: Snigdha Jain, MD

About the blogger: Snigdha Jain, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the UT Southwestern Medical Center. She completed a Certificate in Medical Education through the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine alongside her internal medicine residency training. She is interested in graduate medical education with a particular focus on critical care and inpatient medicine.


Citation: Stoddard HA, O'Dell DV. Would Socrates Have Actually Used the "Socratic Method" for Clinical Teaching? J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Sep;31(9):1092-6. PubMed PMID: 27130623

Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27130623

Article: Would Socrates Have Actually Used the Socratic Method for Clinical Teaching?

Why this article? 

Teaching by asking questions, colloquially known as ‘pimping’ remains one of the most common techniques used by educators for all levels of trainees. While this strategy can be highly effective to promote learning if used correctly, it can also foster a sense of insecurity and contemptibility among students if not done right.

This article by Stoddard and colleagues discusses the idea behind the traditional Socratic method of teaching – one of making learning an active exercise through provocative questioning, and distinguishes it from questioning students in a threatening and uncomfortable environment that equates to ‘pimping’. The authors introduce the concept of ‘psychological safety’ as the underlying construct that differentiate the two behaviors and can be used to promote effective learning in a safe environment.

As an educator, I often find myself teaching multiple levels of learners at the same time and teaching by asking questions becomes a go-to strategy to keep them engaged and assess their level of knowledge at the same time. I found this article helpful as it highlights scenarios where such questioning can be safely used to promote learning and more importantly, where it should be avoided.