Our Vision

Touchstones strives for a world where all people advance mutual understanding, engage in creative problem-solving, share leadership, and build community through collaborative discussion.


Our Mission

Touchstones transforms education. In Touchstones programs, people of all ages and backgrounds learn to speak intentionally, listen actively, think reflectively, and share leadership. These are tools for life.

“I appreciate the diversity of [Touchstones’] materials. [They] offer authentic stories as a springboard for class discussion.”

B. Gaye

Canyon Ridge Elementary, San Antonio, TX

Our History

In 1984, three lifelong professors found each other while teaching at an all seminar program at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. These tutors, Geoffrey Comber, Nick Maistrellis, and Howard Zeiderman, joined forces to better understand the benefits and barriers encountered in discussion-based learning.

Their inquiries led to the formation of the Touchstones Discussion Project, an independent nonprofit dedicated to building a world where all people develop collaborative discussion skills that foster understanding. leadership, and community.

Today, our programs reflect nearly 40 years of research and feedback from thousands of implementation sites. Our work is foundational for building the inclusive, community-centered world we envision.

What is a Touchstone?

A touchstone is ancient tool used to determine the contents of rare minerals. It is also an idea or concept that sparks thinking and reflection. It is something against which we can compare our ideas and opinions.

In Touchstones programs, the touchstones include the ideas and experiences of the participants, the discussion process itself, self-reflection and group evaluation, and the ideas raised in the short primary-source texts embedded in each lesson.

Our Impact

participants in Touchstones programs globally
Touchstones volumes available
Languages in which we’ve translated our volumes
Countries with Touchstones programs