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The Learning Conference 2003

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Of Inquiry-Coaching in the Liberal Arts Classroom

Stephenson Humphries-Brooks.

Lao-Tzu notes "When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists (17)."

Following Lao-Tzu, I have designed and taught two college courses in Religious Studies, PARABLES and RELIGION IN FILM using an inquiry-coaching model derived from the theoretics of R.D. Anderson and Doug Lipman. My experience shows that the inquiry-coaching model enhances student motivation by shifting attention from fear of failure to the desire to know. Student's oral skills improve. Students learn to form groups quickly and to work toward a common goal. Class preparedness improves dramatically. Enthusiasm for teaching and learning increases. Students show greater refinement and intellectual sophistication in understanding the content of the course.

Both Anderson and Lipman require a role shift from teacher as expert to teacher as coach/facilitator. Students become self-directed learners. The classroom becomes a learning space. In PARABLES each student designs and co-convenes two class sessions of 50 minutes each. My only instruction: Design a class in the manner that you learn best. Conveners post reports to the class website.

At the conclusion of the class we use the Lipman's coaching model. This begins with detailed appreciation for the work of the conveners. It may be followed by suggestions to the conveners for improvement. I may add other observations to the entire class for future work. The key to the process is that the student(s) being coached are in control of their learning.

In the case of grading written and oral performance, I have rephrased my comments and grading scale to never express lack or need, but rather to state accomplishment. I have also developed a supplementary evaluation survey for the class, in addition to the standard model survey mandated by my institution.

1. Lao-Tzu. TAO TE CHING. Trans. Stephen Mitchell, New York: Harper and Row, 1988.
2. Anderson, R. D. "Inquiry and Problem Solving," ENC FOCUS vol. 6, no. 2 (1991),
3. Lipman, Doug. THE STORYTELLING COACH. Little Rock: August House, 1995.


Stephenson Humphries-Brooks  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Religious Studies
Hamilton College

Stephenson Humphries-Brooks received his PhD in Religion from Columbia University/Union Theological Seminary with major emphasis in New Testament. He has taught at Hamilton College since 1983 offering courses in New Testament Studies, Apocalyptic and Millenial Movements, Religion in Film, Religion in Literature, Ancient Greek. Current research interests include The Gospel of Matthew, Religion in Film and Literature, Mysticism.

  • Inquiry teaching
  • Reform Pedagogy
  • Coaching
  • Storytelling
  • Liberal Arts
Person as Subject
  • Anderson, Ronald D. Lipman, Doug

(30 min Conference Paper, English)