Innovate My School expert in: philosophy in the classroom, learning through stories, storytelling, thinking skills, questioning techniques, Plato and education.
Peter Worley MA is co-founder and CEO of educational charity The Philosophy Foundation and is an educator and writer. He works in schools running philosophy sessions with children and teachers and is the author of The If Machine: Philosophical Enquiry in The Classroom (Continuum, 2011).
If you are unfamiliar with the ‘9 dot problem’ (or have forgotten it) then, before reading this article, I would urge you to attempt the puzzle first:
The 9 dot puzzle:
Task: cover all 9 dots with four (or less), straight, continuous lines without tracing over the lines. Do not read on until you have had a go. The solution is at the end of the article.
Year 6 child: ‘Miss, do you think God is real?’
Year 4 child: ‘Miss, what is the answer?’
Among the many useful pedagogical skills we can learn from the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, one of the most interesting is that of Socratic irony.
The Chambers dictionary says that Socratic irony is "a means by which a questioner pretends to know less than a respondent, when actually he knows more."
Zoe Williams, of the Guardian, says that "The technique [of Socratic irony], demonstrated in the Platonic dialogues, was to pretend ignorance and, more sneakily, to feign credence in your opponent's power of thought, in order to tie him in knots."