Civic Engagement - Study Groups
Study groups, or study circles, provide a collaborative and democratic approach to addressing important public issues. They are often used as a tool for social and community development, as advocated by Everyday Democracy – a U.S.-based civil society organisation.
Study groups tend to be developed within or by communities in order to tackle a theme or issue of particular interest. The group or circle itself will involve between five and 20 people of diverse backgrounds, although multiple groups can occur in parallel.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has used study circles since 2003. The process is now central to MCPS’s efforts to address racial and ethnic barriers to student achievement and parent involvement. The study circles engage a diverse range of staff, parents and students in dialogue and problem solving, enabling participants to:
- Develop trust
- Hear different perspectives and experiences
- Confront perceptions and beliefs
- Develop a shared understanding of a problem
- Create mutual accountability
- Collaborate on actions that impact attitudes, practice and policies.
The group meets for about two hours weekly for four to six weeks, led by a trained facilitator. After agreeing ground rules, the group discusses particular aspects of the specific issue(s), with comments and questions being recorded by the facilitator.
Between meetings, group members are encouraged to review supporting materials. Discussions are designed to enable participants to consider different points of view, and ultimately to collaborate on ideas for action and change.
Everyday Democracy has helped organise study circles in more than 550 communities, focussing on issues such as racial equity, poverty, diversity, immigration, police-community relations, violence, education, neighbourhoods, and issues affecting youth.
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