Shared Inquiry™ is a method of teaching and learning that enables people of all ages to explore the ideas, meaning, and information found in everything they read. It centers on interpretive questions that have more than one plausible answer and can lead to engaging and insightful conversations about the text. It is based on the conviction that participants can gain a deeper understanding of a text when they work together and are prompted by the skilled questioning of their discussion leader.

In this type of discussion, each participant engages in an active search for the meaning of a work by reading closely, asking questions and discussing actively. Discussion leaders provide direction and guidance in order to get participants thinking, listening, and responding to questions and answers from others in their discussion groups. The participants in the group look to the discussion leader for questions, not answers.

There are five key guidelines to engaging in a successful Shared Inquiry discussion.

  • Participants must read the selection carefully before the discussion.
  • The goal of the group is to discuss the ideas in the text and explore them fully.
  • Participants should support interpretations of the text with evidence from the work.
  • Everyone needs to listen carefully to the other participants and respond to them directly.
  • The leader is there to ask questions rather than offer his/her own interpretations of the text.

Adults participating in a discussion of Her Own Accord

“When I meet other grammar-school friends who were involved in Great Books, they speak about the experience with the same kind of reverence for how it shaped their way of thinking and talking about a text, their understanding of how to approach a piece of literature, and their adult reading choices. The Shared Inquiry method that we encountered as adolescents had a profound and powerful impact on us.”

Lee Pilgrim
Junior Great Books Participant