What makes an answer on Socratic great?

1 Answer
Feb 25, 2015

The defining feature of a great answer is going beyond answering the question, and actually teaching students the concepts behind the question. Briefly, the attributes of great answers are:

  • Actually teach students
  • Start with an answer summary
  • Provide context by defining the main concepts involved
  • Include relevant formulas, images, video, or other media
  • Provide examples
  • Be a reasonable length

Answer summaries let students looking for help quickly assess that the answer will be helpful to them (more).

Providing context means identifying the concepts involved in the question, giving a brief explanation, and linking to further reading. If students are stuck on a question, there's a good chance that they could benefit from going back and getting a basic understanding of a topic.

Formulas and multimedia help students in different ways than text. Putting a formula on it's own line early on in an answer can help a student get 50% of the way to solving a problem. Multimedia help explain concepts to different types of learners , and are sometimes the most efficient ways to express an idea.

Reasonable length is important because at the end of the day, we want to be helpful to the most students possible. Intimidatingly long answers are inaccessible – students look at them and wonder if it'll take them 20 minutes to read and end up not helping them. Very short answers often stop short of explaining context, which helps some students but not the ones who are the most lost!