Study Group Guidelines
Do We need a Group Leader?
Strictly speaking, no. Group reports are also not required (but we are happy to have them if your group does decide to take meeting notes). If your group is serious about learning, the following tips, gleaned from the experiences of Wilmette Institute study group members and mentors, may be useful to you.
Tips for Successful Group Meetings
Experience shows that groups get more out of meetings when there is a designated facilitator. Your group may be blessed with one or more members who already have experience facilitating group meetings or Study Circles. The Institute recommends rotating this responsibility so everyone has a chance to learn and grow. Your group is free to decide how it will structure its meetings, and how often to meet. The following is only a guide, based on the experience of former study group members.
a) Consult on group learning goals. One of your goals may be to do a joint project. When groups develop common goals, they will be more committed to completing the course.
b) Consult on when, where, and for how long the group will meet. Consider rotating the meeting venue, or meeting online if schedules clash or if some members are too busy to make it to most meetings.
Note: Course Units usually last one week, and there is a Grace Period of one month after the official end of the course so that participants can finish up their course work. Study groups can schedule meetings during the Grace Period, and may continue to meet after that if they wish. The course materials will remain available to the group, but the faculty-mentor will not typically be available after the end of the Grace Period.
According to an article published by New England College: “Study groups are a valuable asset because they provide a support system and allow students to share skill sets, thus improving their note-taking abilities while making it easier to cover more material and make learning more fun.” This brief video explains more.
Role of the Faculty-Mentor
Your mentor is a valuable resource. Groups who invited mentors to a group meeting have reported that the experience was very beneficial for the group. Contact your faculty-mentor to arrange a time the mentor can interact with the group. This can be done by phone, or via the Registrar’s Zoom videoconference account. If the mentor’s schedule is incompatible with the group’s, the group can talk to the lead faculty member of the course or any other faculty member.
If the group decides to take notes (this is not a requirement) the following tips may be helpful:
- Consider sharing or rotating responsibility for taking notes.
- The notes need not be detailed. Simply provide
- An outline of the topics covered;
- a list of the main insights;
- answers to discussion questions (if applicable);
- any questions the group may have for the faculty-mentor.
- It is a good idea if the person who is facilitating the meeting can be free from the responsibility of also taking notes.
- Consider making notes online (for instance with Google docs). Then each group member can review and supplement the notes.
- You may send the notes directly to your faculty-mentor.
- If you post a copy of your notes in the forum, you will always know where to find them.
Enhancing Your Learning
The group is free to decide how meetings will be conducted. As a general guide, successful meetings often include the following:
- Discussion of the material covered by the unit. The group could try the following:
- Reviewing and answering the unit’s discussion questions.
- Listening to brief presentations from individual group members on the course materials and/or discussion questions.
- Individual members may choose specific readings or questions from the Unit in advance of the meeting. This way each group member reads only a portion of the materials on his or her own time, and benefits from the insights of the others into readings they did not personally study.
- Activities designed to reinforce learning of the material covered in the unit (art work and small group discussion, for example).
- Sharing your learning. The Institute encourages study groups to plan presentations or service projects (at a Feast, a fireside, a deepening, a children’s class, a youth class, a study circle, a devotional, a public place, informal sharing, or in the community newsletter).
- All the materials prepared by the Wilmette Institute can be used unless they are specifically marked otherwise. This is an excellent way to reinforce learning.
- Refreshments and socializing. This will help to deepen bonds of friendship between the group members and enhance your capacity to work together on projects.
- Visitors. Groups are permitted to allow visitors (persons outside the group who may have special knowledge or skills to enrich the discussions) to attend occasionally.
The Institute has revised its Study Group Guidelines, and it welcomes your continued feedback. More on Study Group Benefits.
Updated: June 1, 2019