Engaging Quiet Students in Shared Inquiry Discussion

Teacher Engaging Quiet Students During Shared Inquiry Discussion

For those of us at the Great Books Foundation who have had the privilege of being invited into classrooms to conduct Shared Inquiry discussions with students of all ages, one of the most rewarding comments we get from teachers is, “I was surprised by how many of my quiet students participated.” Engaging quiet students can be challenging for many educators.

As you may know, there has been an increased interest in the role of introverts in society, as seen by the popularity of books like Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and this interest is now drawing attention to how we encourage and support quiet and shy students during group discussions.

Here are some of the things that we have found can help with engaging quiet students during Shared Inquiry discussions:

  • We let students know early on that we are genuinely interested in hearing their ideas and that we encourage diverse thinking.
  • As shy students sometimes seem more comfortable reading ideas they have written down, we try to make sure that all students have the opportunity to collect their ideas prior to discussion.
  • We find a seating arrangement that facilitates collaboration so that shy students can feel comfortable and supported by their peers.
  • The teacher’s use of a seating chart can help ensure that quieter students are not overlooked and are invited to share their ideas.
  • Adding opportunities to share ideas briefly with a partner often seems to help students who haven’t spoken feel comfortable enough to enter the discussion.
  • Although it cannot replace hearing a student’s voice, exceptionally shy students may benefit from the use of silent signals to demonstrate agreement, disagreement, etc.

For more tips on engaging students, view clips of students engaged in Shared Inquiry discussion, or revisit Nancy Carr’s post, “Strategies for Managing Talkative Students.”

Senior Professional Learning Consultant Linda Barrett has over 20 years of experience as both a professional development coach and a training instructor with the Great Books Foundation, working with a wide range of student populations in schools throughout the country and abroad. She has supported Great Books implementations, including several Comprehensive School Reform projects in the New York City area. Now based in Florida, Linda continues to support a number of large Junior Great Books implementations, while also growing multi-school Junior Great Books initiatives in several Florida counties and a number of other states.