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Employing Socratic Pedagogy To Improve Engineering Students’ Critical Reasoning Skills: Teaching By Asking Instead Of By Telling

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ECE Pedagogy and Assessment I

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.486.1 - 13.486.19



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Paper Authors


Michael Golanbari University of the Pacific

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Michael Golanbari received the Ph.D. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Davis, in 1999. From 2000 to 2003 he was a communications systems engineer on the technical staff of Alantro Communications Corporation and Texas Instruments (TI) Corporation, Santa Rosa, California. At Alantro and TI, he worked on wireless local area network (WLAN) transceiver design and development (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n, WiFi). Since 2003 he has been on the faculty of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, School of Engineering and Computer Science, University of the Pacific, Stockton,
California. His research interests are in engineering education, wireless communications, and signal processing.

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Rick Garlikov Garlikov.Com

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Richard Garlikov is an independent self-employed educator, scientist, writer, business consultant, artist and photographer. He lives and works in Birmingham, Alabama.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Employing Socratic Pedagogy to Improve Engineering Students’ Critical Reasoning Skills: Teaching by Asking Instead of by Telling


Engineering faculty agree almost universally that the development of students’ higher- order intellectual or cognitive abilities is one of the most important educational tasks of engineering programs. These abilities underpin our students’ perceptions of the world and the consequent decisions they make. Specifically, critical thinking (critical intelligence) – the capacity to probe and evaluate skillfully, analytically and fairly the quality of evidence, formulas, precepts and pieces of received wisdom that too often go unexamined and unchallenged and detect inaccuracies, error, hypocrisy, manipulation, dissembling, and bias – is central to both personal success and national needs. This paper assumes that the capacity of undergraduate engineering students to learn to apply good reasoning to problem solutions can be nurtured and developed by an educational process aimed directly at developing students’ critical thinking skills.

More specifically, the paper reports on the judicious and amiable use of the Socratic Method of teaching by systematic questioning – instead of teaching by telling – to emphasize and foster critical reasoning skills in electrical engineering, computer engineering and engineering physics undergraduate students at the University of the Pacific (Stockton, California). The selective, careful use of the Socratic Method (in combination with traditional lectures and active learning exercises) in electrical circuits, linear systems, signal processing, probability and statistics, electronic communications, and senior capstone design project courses, teaching laboratories and projects helped improve student participation, got the students actively involved and excited about the projects and the material being taught, motivated the students to better master course content and taught the students to learn to think and reason more clearly, accurately, relevantly, logically, rationally, ethically and responsibly.

This paper discusses how the judicious, sensible and affable use of the Socratic Method in the aforementioned educational settings facilitated the development of students who are learning to possess the basic skills of thought and reasoning such as the ability to: identify, formulate and clarify questions; gather relevant data; identify key assumptions; identify the sources of the data and assumptions, and evaluate the relevancy and accuracy of the data and assumptions; identify and trace significant implications of the data and assumptions; consider alternative explanations without distortion or self-deception; and reason to logical, rational, responsible and ethical conclusions and decisions.

The Socratic Method does not always work in all contexts nor for all students, but it can be effective for most students most of the time. The paper discusses how the Method was used to integrate questioning and learning in the aforementioned courses, laboratories and projects to stimulate and challenge students, to assist them to acquire knowledge, and to help students discipline their mind by developing intellectual skills and traits of mind such as intellectual acuity, intellectual honesty, intellectual humility, intellectual

Golanbari, M., & Garlikov, R. (2008, June), Employing Socratic Pedagogy To Improve Engineering Students’ Critical Reasoning Skills: Teaching By Asking Instead Of By Telling Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3359

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