Criticisms of the Socratic Method

The case/Socratic method has been challenged by a number of education experts. Some of the criticisms include:

The method has a high cost and low efficiency;

It has an adverse emotional impact on both law teachers and law students

This method often fails to consider legislative and administrative materials, trial-level proceedings, legal institutions, the legal profession, and social and psychological factors at play both in the case scenario and the classroom.
It is argued that the Socratic method is a drill at best, and that for many students, even the most glittering dialogues may be fools’ gold. Even the more vocal students in a highly Socratic class spend most of their time listening to others and their experience is mainly passive and vicarious. The assumption that the student who is being questioned and the rest of the class develop in a parallel manner from the dialogue is dubious. Many students report that the anxious wait to be called upon does not allow for much penetration of information much less the development of higher cognitive skills. The dialogue students hear involves, much of the time, perceptions they do not grasp or share. Assignments often are not planned with the view to systematically develop students’ analytical skills.

For example: If, in the third week of a first year class, a student hears a class discussion in which functional analysis is employed to good effect, who can say how long it will be before he is forced to discern a similar opportunity? And if his answer is defective, how long before he is forced to analyze another issue calling for the same skill?

Nonetheless it has long been assumed that the case or Socratic method produces desirable cognitive results for students.