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Clarkson University Educator Leads Sourcebook Collaboration

A personal and professional friendship among four teachers has blossomed into an educator’s resource that can spur true inquiry in high school classrooms.

Catherine SnyderCatherine Snyder, chair of the Department of Education at Clarkson University, was a high school teacher in 2003 when she and colleagues Mary Eads, Sean O’Connell and Richard Lasselle ’85 were pursuing 10-year National Board certification. The friends casually mentioned writing a book about the process and the idea simmered until 2013.

“It’s been a really long and interesting collaboration,” says Snyder. “We maintained our friendship and the book idea resurfaced when we renewed our National Board certification in 2013. We talked more about inquiry and what we had done in the classroom. I had a sabbatical so I could get a jump on writing. I wrote the first few chapters and sent them out, and then we got a publisher.”

The Teaching with Inquiry Sourcebook can be viewed on the publisher’s website at

The 116-page sourcebook and CD includes a chapter on how to differentiate material for students with special learning needs, encouraging teachers to take interdisciplinary approaches. There also are sample lessons that help meet Common Core state standards.

A sourcebook isn’t a bound book, Snyder explains. It’s a handy guide of chapters that can be put into a binder. That way, teachers can easily remove and copy whatever they choose.

The origins of the teaching material stem from a model on inquiry by Richard Suchman in the 1960s. While he envisioned elementary school science classrooms, Snyder and her colleagues believe it’s a perfect fit for high school social science and humanities classrooms.

“The word ‘inquiry’ is tossed around in education, but real inquiry is when students ask questions, not the teacher,” Snyder says. “We find this really allows students to shift learning from short-term to long-term memory, and increases their understanding of material. They start forming really complex questions and grapple with the information.”

Co-writer Richard Lasselle received his bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Clarkson in 1985. His son David is now a Clarkson sophomore studying mechanical engineering.

This unique, research-based inquiry model is one of many methods that are taught to students in the Department of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Effective and engaging teaching methods help set Clarkson MAT graduates apart, resulting in a job placement rate of more than 90 percent for MAT grads.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at]