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Upper School Initiates Shared Inquiry Methodology

Friday, September 15, 2017
The Humanities staff (English, Social Studies, and Jewish Studies) in both the Middle and High Schools are starting a new method for classroom discussion of great texts, call “Shared Inquiry.” Based on the approach of the University of Chicago’s Great Books program, and the philosophy of St. John’s College (Annapolis and Santa Fe), this method is student-centered and emphasizes critical thinking and civil discourse. Students and teachers sit in a circle, and, after reading a selection from a classical or modern text, discuss as a group its meaning and implications. A few of the distinguishing features of such an approach are: contrary to most classroom interaction, the students do not raise their hands (but learn to take turns); the “answers” (if there are any, or there could be many) are not directed to the teacher but rather to each other; and the emphasis is on a true discussion, not a debate. This takes time for both students and teachers to get used to, but already there have been some very successful classes, and the students are gaining confidence in finding their own voices and engaging with rigorous material.