Collaborative classrooms

Head silhouettes in different colours

Activity: Explore the Community of Inquiry approach to learning.


A Community of Inquiry can be described as:

a group of people – students, teachers, colleagues – who use discussion to engage in deep thinking, explore big ideas, and grapple with the challenges and possibilities in a puzzling concept, idea or circumstance’ (Museum Victoria n.d.)

This form of community of inquiry was developed by Matthew Lipman and is a part of the Philosophy for Children approach to education. Lipman (2003) argued that a community of inquiry is characterised by; ‘non adversarial deliberations, shared cognitions, the cultivation of literacy and philosophical imagination and the encouragement of deep reading, and the enjoyment of dialogical texts’ (Lipman 2003). Moreover, Lipman’s account of a community of inquiry  includes the following features: inclusiveness, participation, shared cognition, face-to face relationships, the quest for meaning, feelings of social solidarity, deliberation, impartiality, modelling, thinking for oneself, challenging as a procedure, reasonableness, the reading, the questioning and the discussion (Lipman 2003). The core business of Philosophy for Children for Lipman, was to promote the improvement of three aspects of thinking: critical, creative and caring (Lipman 2003).

Typically, a community of inquiry involves a group of students sitting together in a circle facing one another, the teacher amongst them as both facilitator and co-inquirer.


Watch this clip of school children participating in a Community of Inquiry:

Read the following guidelines for conducting a Community of Inquiry: Unfortunately the Museum Victoria content is no longer available; replacement content is pending (June 2018).

Group discussion

Discuss the following questions with your own class Community of Inquiry (CoI) using the guidelines above:

  • What is a Community of Inquiry?
  • How is it different to a ‘traditional’ classroom?
  • What are the benefits of using a Community of Inquiry as described in the resources above?
  • How might using a Community of Inquiry approach support reconciliation (now and in the future)?
    • Consider both the content (big questions and topics) and pedagogy (using CoI).

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Lipman, M 2003, Thinking in Education, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Museum Victoria, Conducting a Community of Inquiry, viewed 30 August 2016, <>.