Lunch and Learn Inquisitions: A New Format for a New Type of Learning

If you have been following Harmel Academy of the Trades for a while, you may be familiar with the term Inquisition. It is, in fact, something unique to Harmel being a part of our Humanities program. The Humanities program is a part of each of the trades programs offered, including introductory courses for the Foundations programs. Despite being called a program of its own, the Humanities program is integrated, and therefore, not separate from the students’ trades work, combining the topics of literature, film, trades, philosophy, and theology.

Harmel’s Inquisitions cannot be Googled, as they are named in an almost comedic irony. Inquisitions are considered the final exams at Harmel, taking place in the evening at the end of each semester as large events. Students are examined on the semester cumulatively.

Some may wonder what the appeal of attending one of these events would be. After all, it is bad enough to take an exam. Who would want to sit in on one of those? But they are not your traditional final exams for post-secondary education. They are, however, following in a much older tradition, following a Socratic form. Students are not graded based on their answers to questions but rather, on their engagement with the topics discussed. Inquisitions are large events in which members of the Harmel community are invited to participate as Inquisitors in the Inquisition Minor and guests during the Inquisition Major, in which students participate as a panel on a specific topic. Inquisitions are an opportunity for students to share their thoughts, reactions, and questions with their peers and teacher. Although Mr. Phelps is asking questions and those questions are expected to be answered, students are not called on at random, not every student is expected to answer every question, and there are no incorrect answers as everything is up for discussion.

Starting last semester, the Humanities program was changed to include bi-weekly modified Inquisitions, focusing on the topics covered in those previous two weeks of learning. This adapted system has students answering questions posed by David Michael Phelps—playing inquisitor and instructor. These Inquisitions are not to replace or diminish the large Inquisition at the end of the semester, but rather, to allow students to build to the final, grander, cumulative Inquisition. 

This semester, the Inquisitions were adapted further. Now, these bi-weekly events have moved to a new time, becoming the “Lunch and Learn Inquisitions.” The Inquisitions take place over three days with a first-year Inquisition, a second-year Machine and Systems Technology Inquisition, and a second-year Electrical Inquisition. Due to the timing of these “mini” Inquisitions, not only are staff and faculty able to attend, but also students from the other programs. 

There is no expectation of guests to watch in silence. At the beginning of Tuesday the 7th’s Lunch and Learn Inquisition, student Josh Fisher, a second-year Machine and Systems Technology student, acting as moderator for the event, guest students, staff, and faculty in attendance to jump in with their questions and thoughts. Machine and Systems Technology instructor, Andy Beach, shared his unique perspective as one of Harmel’s two Protestant instructors during a discussion of Simone Wiel’s Waiting on God. A truly moving experience for his peers and students in attendance. 

Guest students are even able to jump in too. First-year Machine and Systems Technology student, Benedict Gregor and first-year Electrical student Kevin Flaherty both took the opportunity on Tuesday the 7th to speak up and give their thoughts on the topics being discussed. However, guests are not required to participate. For any future guests though, a word of the wise, bring a notebook, a pencil, your complete attention, and something quiet for lunch. 

We can’t wait to see how the Inquisitions continue to improve and evolve! 

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