Categoría: Education

Socrates at School.

Versión en Castellano: Sócrates en la Escuela.

I only know that I know nothing, and knowing that I know nothing, I know something; because I know I don’t know anything.

Socrates 470-399 a. C.

A. INTRODUCTION: Why apply Mayeutics in our Education?

According to Plato’s translation of Tredennick (1968), mayeutics consists of a relationship between teacher and disciple based on dialogue, which aims to achieve the true essence of things. This dialogue, for its part, can be established from an erratic or ignored idea, called Socratic irony.

Through reiterated dialogue, knowledge of things is reached, either by rejecting the proposed irony, or by achieving knowledge of what was ignored. Although, this technique can be considered around the dialogue and debate of some idea or concept, isolated from irony. Then, the maieutic aims to give birth to the knowledge of things from the knowledge that the disciple already possesses.

According to Sánchez et al. (2012), the Socratic method is very different from the «master class», it constitutes an active learning methodology, based on metacognition, which focuses the student as the protagonist of their own learning, fostering in the student the creation of a critical attitude.

Then, it becomes important to define the term metacognition in order to understand the association of this qualifier with mayeutics. Flavell, in his work, defines it as:

knowledge or awareness that one has about their own cognitive processes and products […] refers, among other things, to active supervision and the consequent regulation and orchestration of these processes in relation to the cognitive objectives or data on which they act ”( Flavell, 1976, p. 232)

Having understood this concept, and following this line, Shoenfeld (1992) highlights the importance of using teaching methodologies based on metacognition to improve students’ learning of mathematics. For his part, Rigo (2011) defends the implementation of metacognitive techniques in classrooms, underlining Socratic maieutics as a teaching-learning technique that fosters student learning based on self-recognition of their ignorance in three phases: time of construction , moment of de-construction and moment of re-construction. Likewise, this author points out that the use of this technique has numerous benefits in the field of research and mathematics, which makes it necessary to transfer it to other educational spheres, thus causing the metacognitive practices that represent the quintessence of Socratic mayeutics, have an unquestionable presence in the educational agendas of different countries.

However, we can appreciate that mayeutics is presented as a relationship between teacher and disciple, which through dialogue allows to connect with previous knowledge and that, through de-construction and re-construction, the student will acquire a learning, at the same time that you will be aware of your own cognitive processes and products. The necessary elements that must coincide to produce meaningful learning are observable in this technique, as previously discussed considering the postulates of Ausubel, Novak, Gowin and Vigotsky.

All in all, we can broaden the connection of mayeutics with Piaget’s cognitive processes and Bruner’s exploration and remembrance discovery, since together they comprise, for example, the methodological basis of the Harvard Intelligence Program.


The Harvard Intelligence Project (from now on PIH), developed in the late 1970s, was conceived, according to Mejía et al. (1992), to improve thinking skills and abilities in adolescents from socially depressed families. To do this, through systematic intervention, the increase in skills considered typically constitutive of intelligence was facilitated.

Thus, the contents of these interventions focused on the following skills: classifying patterns, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, developing and using conceptual models, understanding and modifying adaptive behavior.

The methodological bases of this program are found in the mayeutics, Piaget’s cognitive processes and Bruner’s exploration and remembrance discovery, with the objective of: developing useful cognitive skills in themselves that facilitate the acquisition of other knowledge that can be extended to situations and contexts of the personal, family and work life.

On the other hand, with respect to the report emanating from the institution that carried out the project, Harvard University (1983) reveals that both the experimental and control students presented an improvement in test scores throughout the year of experiment. On the other hand, the progress of the experimental group was greater than that of the control group in most of the proposed cases. Showing statistically significant differences, which makes the project a promising program.

The success of this program has found a place in its implementation in many countries on a global scale. Among one of his essays, Ramos (2014) studied through his methodology how the PIH influences the IC, as well as the implications in the organizational and professional development of teachers. The study occupied him four years, concluding that:

«The incidence of PIH in IQ is very positive, producing cognitive improvements in students, measured through the Cattell intelligence test» g «. With respect to professional organization and development, it positively influences the autonomy of teaching activity, the commitment to its pedagogical practice, as well as the self-criticism necessary to constantly evaluate it, generating flexible pedagogical proposals, through self-reflection. The communication of this experience positively influences both the school community and the local community, encouraging them to participate in educational projects aimed at improving the quality of teaching-learning and education processes ”(Ramos, 2014, pp. 1-2)

On the other hand, Ramos (2014) proposes that active learning implies a greater degree of involvement in learning as it entails a continuous search for answers and formulation of hypotheses. Considering active learning as an interpretive process that allows us to understand reality, giving it the character of constructive activity.


Christopher Langdell, developed in 1870 the oldest known case method. According to Donham (1922), in that year Langdell was the new dean of the Harvard Law School (HLS) and he proceeded to approach his class from the Socratic method, debating a case that his students should later produce and solve. Its success was such that in 1920 the business school, Harvard Business School (HBS) introduced the case method in the subject of marketing in 1920. Later, other of its schools followed.

Donham (1922), in his work, explains that the main objective is for students to learn for themselves, through independent thought processes, developing the ability to use their knowledge and skills, constructing new meanings from previous learning. Since, according to this author, knowledge without the ability to put it into practice is not useful, and the ability not continually encouraged by new knowledge makes any activity routine. Something that, according to Ausubel (1976) is defined as mechanical learning, the other end of a continuum with respect to meaningful learning. And it is that, for this author, Ausubel, significant learning must be observed not only as a process, but as a product. In this sense, the attribution of meanings that is constructed with the new information is the result of the interaction between clear subdimisors, already present in the cognitive structure and the new information.

On the other hand, Donham (1922) stresses that to encourage activity, the teacher acts as a guide and catalyst, promoting dialogue and debate, allowing students to discover meaningful ideas for themselves, always within a logical framework. In this sense, the Johnson-Laird theory of mental models complements that proposed by Ausubel. According to Johnson-Laird (1983), mental models are those representations that provide individuals with predictive and explanatory power, given that they are characterized by their functionality. If the mental models do not possess these qualities, it is very difficult to attribute meaning to the content. Reason why, a learning will be more significant the greater the ability of individuals to generate mental models related to the subject under study. Therefore, the information or content offered must be considered substantial in a way that favors the construction of these mental models, something that requires logical significance.

In summary, we can conclude that mayeutics, in addition to helping to build functional mental models endowed with predictive and explanatory power that help build meaningful learning; As an active methodology, it involves an interpretive process that allows us to understand reality, giving it the character of constructive activity. Likewise, it favors the interpersonal relationship between teacher and disciple, as well as with the group, which allows for greater socialization, in addition to conferring the catalytic effect of emotion in learning. Without forgetting that this metacognitive methodology helps to develop reflection, deductive and inductive thinking, problem solving, hypothesis planning, among others, which results in greater brain activity, which, as has been proven, seeks its further development. and favors intelligence.


This article is a fragment of the Theoretical Framework of my Final Master’s Thesis, completed in June 2018 by the Isabel I University. Its essence is mayeutics, with which, likewise, it winks at Plato. Specifically, the first introduction and reflection is the sugar phrase in the photo below. A sugar bowl that I kept from a café in one of those times I went up to see my father at the San Cecilio Hospital when his second leg was amputated (hospital where I was also born). He always encouraged me to go further, to unleash my ability, to polish myself. And, finally, also making the journey is something very emotional. My father said goodbye without being able to walk, and I have walked trying to go further thanks to his inspiration and the song he dedicated to me on my 35th birthday, March 24, 2013.

Remembering it today, and feeling that it is always my inspiration to think, work and go further, I leave this little article on the «mayeutica» with the hope that it also inspires other people in education, especially those professionals who are committed to Inclusive Education. and really positive.

Verónica García-Melero


Ausubel, D. (1976). Psicología educativa. Un punto de vista cognoscitivo. México: Ed. Trillas.

Ausubel, D., Novak, J. y Hanesian, H. (1983). Psicología educativa: un punto de vista cognoscitivo. México: Trillas

Ausubel, D. (2002). Adquisición y retención del conocimiento. Una perspectiva cognitiva. Barcelona: Paidós.

Donham, W. (1922). Business Teaching by the Case System. The American Economic Review, 12, 53–65.

Flavell, J. (1976). Metacognitive aspects of problema solving. En L.B. Resnik (Ed.), The nature of intelligence (pp. 231-235). Hillsdade, N.J.: Lawrance Erlbaum Associates.

Gowin, D. (1981). Educating. New York: Cornell University Press

Harvard University (1983). Proyecto Inteligencia. Informe final. Ministerio para el desarrollo de la Inteligencia Humana, Venezuela.

Johnson-Laird, P. (1983). Mental Models. Toward a cognitive science of language, inference and consciousness, Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Kurfiss, J. (1988). Critical thinking:theory, research, practice and posibilities. Washington, Association for the studiy of higher education. Asheeric Higher Education, 2.

Megía M. et al. (1992). El proyecto de Inteligencia de Harvard. Madrid: CEPE

Pérez, M. (marzo, 2013). Comunicación y oratoria con programaión neurolingüística e inteligencia emocional. Conferencia llevada a cabo en la universidad de Navarra. Navarra.

Ramos, M. (2014). Influencia del Proyecto Inteligencia Harvard en el desarrollo cognitivo de los alumnos de educación primaria. Implicaciones en el desarrollo organizativo y profesional en el segundo y tercer ciclo de educación primaria. Avances en supervisión educativa,  22. Recuperado de:…/ase_22_25_ramos.pdf

Rigo, M. (2011). La Mayéutica y su aplicación a un cuestionario dirigido a docentes. En Educación Matemática XV (pp. 523-532), Ciudad Real, España:SEIEM, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha.

Sánchez et al. (2012). Metodología de aprendizaje activo a través de la mayéutica platónica. Departamento de Metafísica y Corrientes Actuales de la Filosofía, ética y Filosofía Política. Universidad de Sevilla.

Shoenfeld, A. (1992). Learning to think mathematecally: Problem solving, metacognition, and sense-making in mathematics. En D. A. Grows (Ed.), Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 334-370). New York: Mc Millan

Vigotsky, L.S. (1987). Pensamento e linguagem. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

VV.AA. (2017a). Ud2: Procesos de aprendizaje. Universidad Isabel I. Apuntes de Aprendizaje y desarrollo de la personalidad.

The Death of Socrates

The miseducation.

Versión en Castellano: La Mala Educación.

True discipline is not imposed, it is born of ourselves.

Oriental Proverb

Have you ever heard of Buridan’s Ass? It is the ass that, according to satire, does not know how to choose between two equidistant and identical heaps of hay, which ends up starving to death. It is a categorical proposition, an argument of reduction to the absurd against the ideological position of Jean Buridan, defender of the free will and reason as a capacitor to ponder all decisions.

As you can see, decision-making from reason is totally paradoxical. In the process of discernment for the election itself, the satirical imprint of the attack on this scholastic theologian becomes. Which, by the way, was a student of William of Ockham.

What teaching about, is observable from the behavior or conduct of the ass. Good because he doesn’t know how to eat, well because he can’t, he ends up not choosing any of his hay stacks, so he dies of hunger. If this argument is extreme, we can appreciate the paradox of our reasoning if other examples are approached. One very popular is that of the love. This one, courted by two suitors, is so dazzled that she ends up not deciding on any of them. With which in the end, she does not die of starvation, but she does end up being alone.

The reason why I approach the Buridian Ass argument today is to make an analogy of it with the Educational System. In this way, the proposals and political guidelines would come to configure a heap of hay and, the scientific proposals and recommendations, the other. The point is that it seems that in our classrooms it does not end up having a faithful reflection of what the legislation proposes or what the scientific community recommends.

From our regulatory framework, it is expected today to educate citizens in what they call key competences. These serve as an instrument to incardinate both the general objectives of the stage and the specific ones in the curricula. From which it is hoped to build an education of values ​​from which the students, the future workers of the system, grow in abilities and skills.

These key competences, defined by the LOMCE, and previously established by the previous Organic Law, LOE, under the label of basic, emanate directly from the Recommendation of the European Parliament. As we can see, they are the same for the entire European Union, then. And it is that, the educational purposes for world education, its aims, as well as its strategies, must obey the guidelines and recommendations of UNESCO.

Drawing based on Buridan’s Donkey. Own elaboration.

These guidelines are «treasured» in the Report of this Organism, the well-known Delors Report. I say «treasured» because they seem to be locked away, well hidden. A treasure! It seems to be, also, that although this Report is constantly referred to, if its citation is observed closely, closely, in very diverse scientific contributions, categorically what they come to express from it is: educate ourselves in learning to learn, in emotional intelligence and build an education on the four pillars Delors preaches. Ea, it’s over. This is why I wonder, has anyone read the Delors Report? Because if they take it in their hands, it is a good «billet». In any case, Delors and company already sensed that they would not be widely read, so they were cured in health with the «Clues» of each of their chapters.

Leaving acidity aside, to question whether the orientations of this Report are truly contemplated, is to question whether they are truly brought into practice from the classroom. After all, the teacher is an «Atlas» on which the weight of the Educational System falls. For this reason, if you are a teacher, you have to ask yourself what you do in class.

The weight of the Educational System could be seen as a set of stones. One stone is the general objectives of the stage, another stone is the specific objectives of his subject, another stone is the values ​​and philosophy of the center, another stone is the methodologies he uses in class and, finally, the fifth is the teaching style. from teacher. Its imprint, its quintessence. They are five great stones that contain the value of Education and provide balance. If only one falls, «Atlas» breaks down and crashes down.

Now, let’s stop at the fifth stone. In the essence of the teacher. If we consider two teachers who work in the same subject, with the same preparation, with the same intelligence and working in the same center, where the curriculum, programming, values ​​and philosophy are identical. Even the methodologies to be used are the same. It is very likely that very different results will be obtained in the learning of the students of one teacher compared to the other. Is the result due to the particular characteristics of the students in each class? Most likely, the deficit in the learning outcome of one group with respect to the other is argued by tilting the balance towards a bad attitude of the students. When in reality it is due to the attitude of the teacher. Because, ask yourself now, if the same thing always happens when observing the same subject and different teachers, is the problem always in the student, or is it in the teacher?

We have all been students and we have experienced that joy that some teachers transmit. These come to be the least, but surely we all have treasured in our hearts some teacher, whom we remember with special affection. Why? Because he likes his profession.

And it is very simple, when a person likes his work, his predisposition to learning and continuous improvement is a constant. She is always enthusiastic and motivated, with joy and with a desire to work and learn. All this gives him self-discipline and it is from self-discipline that self-regulation of behavior is born. As we see, just by imagining this person, we are already excited and happy. Even more so if he is the one who instructs us, he will inevitably transmit to us his spirit, his essence, his happiness. Now ask yourself, can a person who is not motivated transmit motivation? Also ask yourself, can a person who is not self-disciplined educate in self-discipline?

Motivation and self-discipline are two fundamental ingredients for the good performance of student learning and, above all, so that their predisposition to learning is good. Motivation is a behavioral process and needs to be maintained so that this predisposition allows you to undertake any task or activity to its end. So, if you are a professional in education, ask yourself: do I motivate my students? Also ask yourself: How do I motivate them, what do I do to motivate them? Possibly in your answers is the solution to improve something in class.

With regard to self-discipline, an oriental proverb comes to say that «true discipline is not imposed, it is born of ourselves.» Consequently, a positive predisposition towards a task, in addition to motivation, requires a feeling of enthusiasm for it. We are excited about what we like. In this way, ask yourself: what can I do to make my subject like it? Also, ask yourself: What can I do to make my class like it?

This enthusiasm, which will determine the student’s self-discipline, is sustained by the fourth stone. The one of the methodology. Now, going back to the Buridian Ass argument, the methodology would come to represent the haystack of science. With the word methodology we could encompass technique, didactics, strategy, among others. We consider it a lot of hay because despite the evidence of science the possibilities offered by certain methodologies, strategies, techniques, for the achievement of significant learning and the development of virtues and values ​​in students, the attitude of the teacher towards its use is not positive, if it is not null. Nor does it contemplate the virtues and values ​​to be worked on in the classroom. With what, how a complete education in the student will be built if that integrity is not worked.

Well, the entire effort of science in pedagogical, didactic and educational matters, is aimed at seeking the way and means with which people learn significantly, learn better, get excited and know each other from their learning. Not all of us learn the same, so we must consider facilitating a variety of methods and strategies with which people become aware of their own learning. This is what guides them to learn how to learn. To be continuously recycling ourselves. It is something necessary, since the result of our training is nothing but training for the labor market. And, today, the job market is increasingly demanding in knowledge and skills. Many talented people are nonetheless fired for incompetence in social and emotional skills. That is why, from our early formation, comprehensive education must be considered.

Now ask yourself: Did I make some notes fifteen years ago and do I still photocopy them today for my class? What’s more, the exercises are the same so that I already know the results and that I save. Also, ask yourself: Do I make my students work on projects cooperatively, encourage dialogue in class, do I reflect, do I investigate, question what they learn, connect the learning from one day to the next, or… I plug in the projector to follow my explanation and then go down to buy the notes to the copy shop? Also ask yourself if, in order not to complicate your life, follow the book closely or, directly, request that the manual be opened on page X.

Of course, master explanations, content exposition and visual support are fundamental, but if this were a mathematical proposition, it would be a necessary reason, not a sufficient and necessary reason. For this reason, consider that your students need to be involved in their own learning and must further facilitate more methodologies and ways with which to create meaning in their science. Also, remember that your students are students of the 21st century, students of the digital age. They have been born surrounded and living the digital experience, which has ended up conditioning the way they learn. Their information digestion processes have varied, requiring more agility in their learning process. And since your students are these, not those of twenty years ago, adapt your teaching to your students.

My passion for education and everything I have been learning over the past few years is what has brought me to write this today. I never thought that I would publicly express my opinion, however, all my work from my last year, the step I have decided to take, I owe it to my son. He has motivated me to finish deciding what I am passionate about. And since I am so fascinated by people’s education and training, it is something so great, that it gives so much satisfaction, that I would like to make many educational professionals reflect today.

And I choose today, December 5, because it is my son’s birthday, wanting to celebrate with him the gift of love that being a mom means. I try hard for him, but it is thanks to him that everything I am doing is possible. My hours of staying up late to move forward have been made light by the love that makes me feel. And, of course, that has managed to unleash my ability and enthusiasm for what I do.

I would like him to grow in a school education that facilitates all those values ​​that help him grow as a person. In any case, as far as my responsibility as a mother is concerned, I hope to transmit many of those values ​​that I find so hard to see in education and in society. Above all love, humility, sincerity and mercy.

For all these reasons above, don’t get lost as a paradigm, the solution is very simple. The best teacher is not the one who knows the most, but the one who teaches the best. Be aware that today you must work as a guide, not as the «Oracle of infinite knowledge». And always keep in mind that a good teacher is an educator. Not only does it transmit knowledge or guide to achieve it, but it brings values ​​closer to the students and enables the way for them to develop them. In addition, from his joy and passion for what he does, he excites and motivates. I flagged myself to like what he does. Be a wise person, not a scholar.

Nor is it justified that you need training. Of course, training will be made by an increasingly competent and wise person, but surely if you look at your being, you know that you have enough skills, from now on, to bring educational purposes to your classroom. In this way, since the ass is from Buridian, be Buridian and take your master’s razor. With Ockahm’s razor you will be able to make the simplest decision, that of taking one pile of hay and the other. Later, you will be able to discern how much hay from each pile is the best option. But for now, he has both heaps to keep his class from dying of boredom. With not boring, you have already taken the first step. Start by making your class fun. This cheers, motivates and excites. Make a change. You know, deep down, that to start a change in the classroom, the change starts with you.

With love, my son.

Verónica García-Melero