The purpose of SHARED INQUIRY in this course is have interchanges where views can be questioned, supported, evidence reviewed, minds confirmed or changed and collaborative positions worked out. It is optimal for three to five member teams to meet at least once each week and use the following guidelines in structuring Shared Inquiry Teams. Having a moderator/leader is key, the larger the group. With partners or trios, a more natural discussion style can be used. You can even do Shared Inquiry with friends who are not taking the course, so long as they are willing to be interested discussion partners.
Shared Inquiry is a distinctive method of learning in which participants search for answers to fundamental questions raised by experience and readings. This search is inherently active; it involves taking what we have taken from our reading and other experiences and trying to grasp its full meaning, to interpret or reach an understanding, using our best reasoning.
The success of Shared Inquiry depends on a special relationship among participants. In Questioning, you do not impart information or present your own opinions, but guide participants in reaching their own interpretations. You do this by posing thought-provoking questions and by following up purposefully on what participants say. In doing so, you help them develop both the flexibility of mind to consider problems from many angles, and the discipline to analyze ideas critically. In Shared Inquiry, participants learn to give full consideration to the ideas of others, to weigh the merits of opposing arguments, and to modify their initial opinions as the evidence demands. They gain experience in communicating complex ideas and in supporting, testing, and expanding their own thoughts. In this way, the Shared Inquiry method promotes thoughtful dialogue and open debate, preparing its participants to become able, responsible citizens, as well as enthusiastic, lifelong learners.
Shared inquiry (Great Books Foundation) is a way to have students involved in discussing what they have read, and their responses to it. Often, it is used in literature circles where students come to the group to share their own ideas in response to reading and hear the ideas of their peers. Teachers facilitate the discussion by using guiding questions to prompt the sharing of ideas.
The following tips for shared inquiry come from the Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, Early Literacy Guide. With shared inquiry, both the teacher and students ask the questions. Students discuss the question and ask follow-up questions to extend their meaning. For example, interpretative questions focusing on Jack and the Beanstalk might include, "Why does Jack answer the old man's question by saying, "Two in each hand and one in your mouth?" Why does the ogre's wife want to keep Jack from being eaten?" "Why does the author make Jack's mother a poor widow?" (Great Books Foundation).
In general, good interpretive questions:
- have more than one answer supported by the Inquiry sources
- use appropriate vocabulary for the participants
- focus on the Essential Question and sites visited
- require students to take and support a stand
- are specific to the sites you and others have investigated.
During discussions, teachers allow time for students to think before answering and time to rethink their answers based on later discussion. Teachers can help students examine questions more thoroughly by asking follow-up questions, which require students to be accurate and specific. They may ask:
- What makes you think that?
- How would another character react to that?
- Why did you think the problem would get solved that way?
Some guidelines for teachers on modeling the leadership of a shared inquiry discussion are:
- Start with a good basic interpretive question.
- Model all discussion strategies thoroughly.
- Take notes on participants' contributions.
- Encourage participants to talk to one another.
- Ask participants to relate ideas to the basic question.
- Encourage participants to refer to evidence frequently.
- Be open to challenges to your questions.
- Give everyone a chance to contribute.
- Ask and encourage students to ask follow-up questions often.
- Ask the group to discuss the Shared Inquiry process, including modifications to make it work better (FEEDBACK!).
Keep a WEEKLY JOURNAL summarizing 1) key ideas 2) thoughts on process.