New Peer-Led Learning Classes: Inquire, Explore, Discuss and Have Fun

Ready to join your peers in an exciting new learning format at North Shore Senior Center (NSSC)?

The new peer-led classes, formerly operated as the Lifelong Learning Institute at National Louis University in Skokie, are now part of NSSC's Lifelong Learning in a new category of programs called INQUIRE.

More than 20 new INQUIRE classes are offered each term, all developed and coordinated by participants.

Classes feature current issues, literature, culture and society, and film and theater topics. For a program listing and to register, visit

"Peer-led learning is a great complement to our other classes that are primarily led by instructors. And it is a very different learning experience," said Mary Staackmann, Director of Lifelong Learning.

In peer-led classes, participants take turns leading a discussion of the material based on the "shared inquiry" method. Rather than students learning from an instructor or presenter, participants actively explore the material together.

"No single person is significantly more knowledgeable than the other participants," explained Linda Spring, a peer-led class participant, coordinator and co-chair of NSSC's INQUIRE Program Committee.

What You Should Know: The Peer-Led Learning Experience

Both Linda and Rochelle Singer, who also sits on the INQUIRE Program Committee and is communication liaison for "The Review," share their insights in peer-led learning to help prospective participants gain a greater sense of the enlightening and engaging nature of these sessions.

How has integrating peer-led classes benefited the NSSC community?

People looking for an opportunity to study a topic in depth and to share their thoughts and ideas on the topic with others will enjoy the peer-led class experience. Peer-led classes offer a wide variety of topics, including both fiction and non-fiction.

In some of the courses, participants study one book for a term, while in others, participants share their original written work, study plays, or watch and discuss classic or current movies.

What makes peer-led learning different from instructor-led classes?

Peer-led learning allows people to participate fully in learning. They can ask questions, offer opinions, and exchange viewpoints and interpretations. What better way to expand one's horizon than to get a variety of perspectives and integrate more than one point of view into one's belief system?

Class discussion leaders are not experts in their respective topical areas, so the participants learn together using published materials and other resources.

The person leading the discussion asks open-ended questions that allow the group to discuss the material for a deeper, shared understanding.

What are the benefits of the learner's participation?

All participants in the class are learners and have an opportunity to actively engage in the material under discussion. Participants find this process intellectually challenging and exciting.

Delving deeply into a chosen topic for one term is fun, especially when examining an area in which one was previously unfamiliar.

What can I expect when I first attend a peer-led educational class?

All participants in a peer-led class are welcomed in a friendly, open manner. They can expect to be introduced to the other members, orientated to the class protocol, and treated with respect.

New participants are not expected to facilitate a class discussion their first year of participation.

When they are ready to take on the role of a discussion leader or coordinate a class, other participants are happy to pair with them or help them prepare for their first time.

Discussion leaders are not teachers; they formulate questions appropriate to the assigned reading for the day and lead the class by asking the questions.

You will learn from each other by considering the topic from many different angles and by adding to or challenging others' opinions. You will find an active, participatory learning experience.

The group always ";takes off" sharing their viewpoints, and the leader does not have to worry about participation!

How do I get started?

You can get the greatest value from the peer-led experience by choosing a topic that interests you and by coming to class prepared to discuss the assigned material with an open, inquiring mind.

Listen thoughtfully to the questions presented for discussion and the viewpoints of other participants. It is especially important to freely voice your own ideas.

Contact the class coordinator if you would like additional information.

To learn more, contact the Lifelong Learning department at 847.784.6030 or, or check out the summer class catalog at

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