Discussion Guidelines

Briefly, these are the guidelines for Shared Inquiry™, a text-based Socratic method of discussion that the Great Books Foundation has successfully developed over more than six decades of work with educators of all kinds. We will follow these guidelines for our discussions:
  1. Read the selection carefully before participating in the discussion. This ensures that all participants are equally prepared to talk about the ideas in the work and helps prevent talk that would distract the group from its purpose. (Reading the text at least twice, taking notes/highlighting is highly recommended.) 
  2. Support your ideas with evidence from the text. This keeps the discussion focused on understanding the selection and enables the group to weigh textual support for different answers and to choose intelligently among them. 
  3. Discuss the ideas in the selection and try to understand them fully before exploring issues that go beyond the selection. Reflecting on the ideas in the text and the evidence to support them makes the exploration of related issues more productive.
  4. Listen to other participants and respond to them directly. Shared Inquiry is about the give-and-take of ideas and the willingness to listen to others and talk with them respectfully. Directing your comments and questions to other group members, not always the leader, will make the discussion livelier and more dynamic. 
  5. Expect the leader to only ask questions. Effective leaders help participants develop their own ideas, with everyone gaining a new understanding in the process. When participants hang back and wait for the leader to suggest answers, discussion tends to falter. 
  6. When we discuss non-fiction works, we will spend time developing a shared understanding of the author’s arguments, propositions, and supporting evidence and expertise before analyzing the pros and cons of the author’s position.