Toward a More Perfect Union
in an Age of Diversity

Tips for Study Circle Leaders


The Role of the Study Circle Leader

A study circle leader does not need to be an expert (or even the most knowledgeable person in the group) on the topic being discussed, but should be the best prepared for the discussion. This means understanding the goals of the study circle, being familiar with the subject, thinking ahead of time about the directions in which the discussion might go, and preparing the discussion questions to aid the group in considering the subject.

This guide offers several approaches to the key questions. There are too many to cover in two-hour sessions. Choose the ones that you believe will be most interesting and relevant to your group. You may want to consider holding extra meetings, especially for Sessions 3 and 4. Whatever you decide, solid preparation will enable you to give your full attention to group dynamics and to what individuals in the group are saying.

Tips for Study Circle Leaders

Set a relaxed and open tone

Establish the purpose of the study circle and help the group establish ground rules

At the beginning of the study circle, remind everyone that the purpose of the study circle is to deliberate on the issue at hand in a democratic and collaborative way. Also remind them that your role as leader is to remain neutral, to keep the discussion focused, and to guide the conversation according to the ground rules.

Suggest a few basic ground rules, and ask participants to add their own ideas. Some basic ground rules include:

Stay aware of and assist the group process

Help the group grapple with various points of view

Use questions to help the discussion go deeper

Ask open-ended questions that don't lend themselves to easy answers:

Close the discussion with a summary, looking ahead to the next meeting, and evaluation

Be aware of the dynamics of cross-cultural communication

Awareness of cross-cultural dynamics is always useful in a study circle setting, but this is especially true when diversity issues themselves are the subject of conversation.

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