Study circle

Study circle

A study circle is a small group of people who meet multiple times to discuss an issue. Study circles may be formed to discuss anything from politics to religion to hobbies. They are differentiated from clubs by their focus on exploring an issue or topic rather than on activities or socializing.

tudy circle basics

Study circles are typically created by persons who discover a common interest; other study circles may be created to analyze and find solutions to social, political, or community problems.

There is no teacher, but one member usually acts as facilitator to keep discussion flowing and on track, and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to become as involved as he desires to be. Reading material and audio/visual aids are often used to stimulate dialogue.

Study circles may be introductory level, advanced level, or any level in between. Study circles may be sponsored or assisted by government or community officials and have specific outcome goals such as generating ideas or suggesting courses of action; or they may be entirely independent and self-sufficient, existing simply for the pleasure of increasing the knowledge of their members.

There is no one right way to do a study circle. The method is simple and suitable whether the discussion is for deeper understanding, for weighing options and making choices, for making recommendations that lead to action, or for academic study. [ [ Study Circles Resource Center] ]

Study circles allow complex topics to be broken down into manageable parts. Single session programs can result in meaningful and productive dialogue, but study circles usually involve multiple sessions in order to fully investigate the question at hand. However, a study by Staffan Larson in 2001 concluded that while study circles foster participation they are only partly successful as civic change vehicles since their power to influence social action is weak. [Larsson, Staffan. "Seven Aspects of Democracy as Related to Study Circles." "International Journal of Lifelong Education" v20 n3 p199-217 May-Jun 2001.]

History and evolution

The term 'academic circles' may have origins in the Madrasa system of Islamic legal education, where students "sat in a circle around their professor", and the concept was later found in the medieval university system in Europe. [citation|title=A History of Christian-Muslim Relations|first=Hugh|last=Goddard|year=2000|publisher=Edinburgh University Press|isbn=074861009X|page=100]

The study circle concept later developed in early 19th century Sweden, with the introduction of compulsory schooling and the corresponding concern with illiterate adults. Nonformal education with folk high schools, such as those of Nikolai Grundtvig, and study circles arose as a way to solve the problems of illiteracy and create an educated citizenry. [Andrews, Cecile. "Study Circles: Schools for Life." available [ online] ]

In Sweden today study circles have broad federal and national support. National educational associations receive annual subsidies from the federal government and work with folk high schools (Volkshochschule), university short courses, correspondence study and distance learning, allowing citizens to understand and participate more fully in their communities and nation. The Swedish study circle model was successfully transplanted into American culture, most notably in the National Issues Forums (sponsored by the Domestic Policy Association in Dayton, Ohio) and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen's Study Circle Program which began in 1986.

Today, with the growth of the internet, virtual study circles are possible, but the original model of face-to-face communication and real-world, rather than virtual, interaction retains its wide appeal.

Study circles are also being employed as a change process and development activity within corporations. Some of the same ideas and concepts of community study circles can be applied to internal issues such as diversity, race relations and community-focused giving.



* Oliver, Leonard P. "Study Circles: Coming Together for Personal Growth and Social Change" (Seven Locks Press, 1987)
* Velichko, Aliona. "Welcome to the World of Study Circles." [ html] [ pdf]

External links

* [ Study Circles Resource Center] — community problem-solving
* [ National Adult Literacy Database] — Canada
* [ International Study Circles]

ee also

* Bahá'í study circle
* Nikolai Grundtvig

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