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The Inquiry Circle: Let the Conversation Begin

​​​Reflective practitioners engage in conversations within themselves and with others and in doing so these conversations drive us “to reinvent and reeducate​​ ourselves along with the children.” Rinaldi, 1993

Boys Town National Research Hospital’s hearing specialists invite educators and specialists working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing to join an Inquiry Circle focused on using reflective practices to promote adult and student learning. The Inquiry Circle involves a small group of educators sharing perspectives while using a variety of documentation types such as pictures, observations, student work samples or video clips as a means for discovering strategies to enhance their teaching. Many times the inquiry meeting is focused on a particular issue, problem, or question that an educator is experiencing. This type of inquiry process was first proposed by Dewey in 1933 and was implemented in the first lab school he founded at the University of Chicago. The approach has since been applied in many current day educational programs across the world.

In the Inquiry Circle, participants ask questions, share ideas and offer possibilities on how to expand concepts that surface. A facilitator guides the discussion by providing conversation cycles focused on observing, questioning, reflecting and responding. This approach provides participants with the opportunity to share their expertise and benefit from seeing a wide range of teaching strategies.

Catherine Cronin Carotta, Ed.D., is the facilitator of the Inquiry Circle offered to school districts across the county. She is the Associate Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness and the Director of the Auditory Consultant Resource Network. Dr. Carotta partners with Auditory Consultant, Katie Brennan, M.S.CCC-SLP​, and Boys Town National Research Hospital’s hearing specialists offering national advisement regarding educational and leadership practices supporting outcomes for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In preparation for the large group Inquiry Circle, the presenting educator brings relevant student documentation or a short video clip of a teaching session. The facilitator engages the team in conversation following the three rounds of discussion outlined below:

  • First Round: Individuals offer observations of video sample or documentation.
  • Second Round: Individuals raise questions or seek clarification from the educator & the educator answers questions.
  • Third Round: The educator provides suggestions for expansions, and the group freely brainstorms ideas and collaborates with the educator in exploring plans for future possibilities.

The following video demonstrates how the Inquiry Circle approach was recently conducted with Deaf Educator, Laura Kriegshauser and other hearing specialists, as the group reflected on her lesson focused on the book, The Mitten.

Participants experiencing the Inquiry Circle value this respectful conversational approach as it encourages multiple perspectives and strategy sharing. As a result they move forward with renewed enthusiasm for teaching and learning.

For more information about scheduling an Inquiry Circle please contact Catherine C. Carotta, Ed.D., at