Published on February 24, 2008
Slide1: Mark Brophy 2006 Fulbright Professional Vocational Education and Training Award recipient Are we ready for the Study Circle? Session 3 – Workshop 17 Bringing the US Study Circles Resource Centre to Australia: Bringing the US Study Circles Resource Centre to Australia A small diverse group of ‘members’ agree to meet for several times to address a particular issue in a democratic and collaborative manner. The dialogue begins with personal experiences and progresses to sessions that examine a range of views on the issue. The final sessions consider strategies for action and change. Slide3: What are study circles? Study circles have been a staple of adult education in Sweden for over 100 years where 3 million people now participate in 350,000 study circles annually. In the United States there has been significant growth in their popularity in tackling a range of difficult issues since the formation of the Study Circles Resource Centre in 1989. SCRC Mission: SCRC Mission To help communities develop their own ability to solve problems by exploring ways for all kinds of people to think, talk and work together to create change. Core Principles Involve everyone. Demonstrate that the whole community is welcome and needed Embrace diversity. Reach out to all kinds of people Share knowledge, resources, power, and decision making. Combine dialogue and deliberation. Create public talk that builds understanding and explores a range of solutions. Connect deliberative dialogue to social, political, and policy change Slide6: A small group of members, with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, agree to meet ‘face to face’ and investigate a particular issue over several sessions. Being in a small circle automatically allows everyone to have an equal voice. In a circle you get to know the real person. Slide7: Study circles are democratic discussions that provide a setting for open deliberative dialogue. Members deliberate; cooperatively investigate, explore and clarify different views, use critical thinking, evaluate ideas and decide on solutions. The dialogue is constructive, all types of discourses are accepted, stereotypes are dispelled, members are honest, and they listen and try to understand each other. Slide8: No instructor teaches or controls the circle; members abide by a simple set of adult learning principles and ground rules, which they agree upon themselves. The members themselves ‘own’ the process and make the all the decisions. Member role: Member role Listen carefully to others Maintain an open mind Try hard to understand the point of view of those with whom you disagree Help keep the discussion on track Speak freely but don’t dominate Talk to the group as a whole If you don’t understand, say so Value your own experience and understanding Be prepared to disagree Ground rules: Ground rules All group members are encouraged to express and reflect on their honest opinions; all views should be respected. Though disagreement and conflict about idea’s can be useful, disagreements should not be personalised. Labelling, or personal attacks are be tolerated. It is important to hear from everyone. Those who tend to speak a lot in groups should make an effort to allow others to speak. The facilitator is to remain neutral and to guide conversation according to the member role and ground rules. Others? Slide11: A facilitator, trained in group dynamics and study circle concepts, helps the group keep focused on different opinions and ensures the discussion progresses. Slide12: The process is unique as personal experiences are used as a starting point. Learning begins to develop through the contributions from everyone. As members consider and discuss the issue, they learn from each other. Horizons are expanded as all views are considered. A study circle is not…: A study circle is not… Traditional education or training Facilitated meeting Public hearing or public meeting Conflict resolution Mediation Focus group Discussion group Slide14: Well written, easy to read guides are used, to promote discussion and ensure all views are represented fairly. Good discussion guides…: Good discussion guides… Begin from each members personal experience and perspective of an issue. Progress onto presenting a wide and often controversial range of different views and solutions in relation to the issue. Include all views – even those that at not represented in the membership. Discussion guides and study circles run through a process that theoretically empowers both individuals and groups. Slide16: The process is highly participatory and results in the critical reflection of ideas and the development of new knowledge and insights. Based upon the understandings, insights and new knowledge, members are empowered to act. They then explore solutions and come up with action strategies. ‘Levels’ of empowerment: ‘Levels’ of empowerment Slide18: Paul Before Unemployment is such a deep, entrenched thing; it’s very hard to cure After Study circles could hopefully change things by learning from each other. I think yes, it’s a small step along the way. 1 year It improved my confidence a little and gave me extra contacts. Doing the study circle has made me more confident in talking with other people. Slide19: Francis It opens up a lot of questions, a lot of thoughts . I learnt that the exercise of sharing of experiences with others is a lot more valuable than I would’ve ever thought possible. I have changed. I am a lot more accepting of some different points of view. I’m more effective in communication. Pam The diversity of people’s experiences was really useful. All of us have had fairly different experiences, but there were a lot of common threads despite those differences. It is good for people to be able to get together and discuss the issues in a safe environment, some people don’t get the chance to do this at all George I had to face up to quite a bit of self reflection, self-analysis. I hadn’t come across that type of experience before. Slide20: Community wide circle programs On a larger scale, a well organised community wide circle programs have proven to be extremely effective in community capacity‑building and solving a range of problems. Many study circles take place at the same time, and large numbers of people from all parts of the community meet in small groups to discuss a particular issue; contributing and learning from each others experiences and knowledge- which leads to a wide range of well informed decisions and action efforts. Community wide circle program : Community wide circle program Montgomery County, Maryland, US. 195 schools. Middle, high, career and technical schools. 145, 000 students. 20,000 employees. In 2005, 560 diverse members participated in 41 study circles on the issue of multiculturalism and barriers to student achievement. The results included extra training for 92 facilitators, introduction of staff PD on cultural diversity, a leadership guide, presentations at two national conferences and many requests to expand the program. Slide25: A study circle is a typical third way initiative that reduces voluntary exclusion by elites. All relevant stakeholders are invited to contribute, thereby reducing inequality, as it is participatory and inclusive. (Giddens 1998) Professional elites can stymie (Larsson 2001) Slide27: “The first Learning Circle was run dragging the community along. They were not reluctant but rather exhausted with constant government demands and hollow promises – they had heard it all before and knew that nothing real or useful to them was going to happen. However, with small tangible promises kept and relationships built over time, small incremental changes started to occur” Building Rural Futures Study Circle Kit: Building Rural Futures Study Circle Kit While the kit is a marvelous tool, on its own it's just a book, It requires skilled and resourced facilitators who are able to invite people who may not know each other to sit together at a common table and learn to work together. Dr Helen Sheil Whitey's Like Us : Whitey's Like Us Producers- Tom Zubrycki & Rachael Landers – 1999 United Nations Media Award at the Melbourne Film Festival- 1999 Slide30: They won’t work here, they’re a Swedish thing. Didn’t they originate from some religious cult movement? Sound a bit conspiratorial left wing to me! Oh, I see, they're just like a discussion group. I tried using them. Didn’t work. I can’t use them, how do we know what the outcomes will be! Will it work with (my specific issue / group / context)?