When I think about pedagogical devices, one of the most ineffective that comes to mind is the Socratic Method, used liberally in today’s law schools. The purpose is usually to get student x to commit to a position that the professor then shows is indefensible. It is also the device to keep students prepared for class in the absence of such devices as quizzes and exams, which professors would actually have to grade.Maybe that's why the University of Chicago Law School is banning the use of the Internet in the classroom?
But what happens when we use the Socratic Method? When x is called everyone else takes a sigh of relief, knowing that Facebook, shopping, and G-Mail chat is readily available for when the professor wastes the rest of the classes time and money, focusing on student x and his or her positions instead of the material.
So what does the Socratic Method really do? It provides professors a device that gives students an incentive to prepare for class while limiting the amount of work professors have to do outside of class.
Last, professors may maintain that the Socratic Method helps strengthen students positions on issues. I can tell you, however, that nobody I know believes that they have constructed a consistent and complete (not that it is even possible, anyway) framework of contracts, torts, constitutional law, etc., and nobody I know is any firmer about their positions because of the Socratic Method.
I propose recognizing the Socratic Method for what it is: [junk]. Seth Roberts blogs a lot about who universities are really created for, and I don’t think it could be any clearer who really benefits from the Socratic Method, and who really pays.
(HT Seth Roberts)