Retrieval Practice, Scaffolding, and the Socratic Method — from by Todd Zakrajsek
Revisit the Socratic method by using it to enact retrieval practice and scaffolding in courses and refresh thinking about applying recommendations from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)


When students think they know course material because they have collected reams and reams of information, retrieval practice, much like Socratic questioning, forces students to stop, think, reflect, and reconsider. It meets students where they are (e.g., overwhelmed with information), encourages effortful struggle associated with learning (e.g., presents a desirable difficulty), and offers the discipline of practice (or, perhaps, the practice of discipline). The goal of retrieval practice, getting information out, reflects the goal of so many of Socrates’s questions, to make his interlocutors give an account of and become more aware of their thinking.

When faculty chunk up material, assist students as they move through Bloom’s taxonomy, model approaches to help students get started and maintain momentum, make the student an active participant in developing and reflecting on knowledge, they are incorporating key elements of some of the most important recommendations from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. All these techniques help students build or generate knowledge.