Socratic Discussion in a Virtual World

As promised from my last post, here are a few tips for Socratic/class discussion because this is my absolute favorite thing to do.

{Your platform will depend on your school, but this can happen in any virtual environment.}

In a virtual setting, Socratic discussion is a way to invite students to explore concepts that need a deeper understanding or as a way to build a community that practices civil discourse. It is my favorite way to check for understanding and allow the students to show what they know and learn from each other.

My favorite thing to say to my students is, we are ALL here to learn. We all need to be able to ask questions if we don’t understand.


Don’t be the person who knows everything. Be the person who wants to know more.

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Things to Consider:

  • Size- how many students will be a part of this? I’ve done Socratic discussion with a group of 10 and a group of 40. It can be done.
  • Time- start small. Teach the participants HOW this is done in your classroom.
  • Socratic Seminar Observations- Reviewing how students are assessed because it’s important for them and you will get asked. I used to be asked, “How many times do I have to speak?” and I hated that question. So, I devised this because I want to know that you GET IT, not just that you can speak.
  • Creating one objective or question to help focus the discussion. For example, how do we define liberty?
    • This gives a check-in point in case it goes off the rails. I address this in my Facilitator Guide.

Socratic discussion in a virtual world:

  • Should be student-driven with teacher facilitation where needed
  • Can create engagement and deeper understanding beyond what students think they care capable of.
  • What if students don’t participate?
    • Assume positive intent- this is very new for some students, some have to work, some have other siblings needing the devices.
    • Come up with questions or have the student submit questions, comments via chat.
    • Use FlipGrid to allow for discussion outside of the classroom. I used this when students were absent and unable to participate. It also allowed students who needed the extra time due to other barriers to participate and for me to see if they understood.


  • Please mute your microphone unless you are speaking to ensure the speaker can be clearly heard. You may choose to use the hand raise to develop a queue.
  • Be thoughtful, courteous, and curious in your discussion. Assume positive intent and if you are unsure, ask what the person meant.
  • Be aware of how much you talk! Everyone should have the opportunity to participate. Encourage students to keep a note of what they want to say so they don’t forget.
  • Anything else we need to consider to create an environment that fosters learning and conversation? (This allows students to have a say because ALL classrooms are different and all kids need something different)

Still worried? Ask a few colleagues or some friends to help you try it out for the first time! This is what I always do. My husband is my tester for things. Don’t be afraid to let the students give feedback on what went well and what needs to be tweaked to make it even better the next time.

Lastly, be kind to yourself, especially if you are trying it for the first time. You’ve got this!

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