Starting and Sustaining a Teacher Study Groups
Back to Forming a Teacher Study Group Module
Teachers often seek out their peers to talk about their experiences in the classroom and share stories. The experience of teaching in a K-12 classroom brings with its own unique and powerful perspective on learning and teaching practice. In the past, teachers have formed study groups (also called research or learning groups) with peers who share their interests in an attempt to solve real-world problems they encounter in the classroom and understand alternative ways of managing their classroom practice. Teachers have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can share with others that provides helpful insight into specific learning situations and settings. With the advent of technology, especially telecommunications tools (such as e-mail and the Web), teachers can form and participate in groups with teachers outside their school or district. By using e-mail, teachers can participate in study groups as they have time and to the extent their interests overlap with other teachers.
- Learn how to form a teacher study group.
- Learn ways of structuring or organizing teachers over e-mail.
- Learn how technology can support teacher study groups.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: Medium-speed (28,800 BPS via phone) or higher.
Usually the idea of a teacher study group is formed by a few teachers who share common interests or ideas. Sometimes, these groups are formed under the direction of school faculty or university researchers. If you regularly communicate with teachers in your school, your district, or elsewhere, you can easily form a study group using basic Internet tools such as e-mail. For more aggressive people, setting up a list server may offer the most flexibility for group communication. For group collaboration, some combination of e-mail and access to shared Web space may do the trick. The extent to which the group works together, shares ideas and thinking, and supports individual work is an essential element of what is decided when these groups form.
There are many ways that teachers can find and establish regular communications with other teachers. These include:
Once you have identified potential teachers for your group, the next step is to have members of the group meet, either face-to-face or electronically, so you can establish your goals and priorities, as well as brainstorm ways that you will meet those goals. Make sure all participants are engaged and involved in keeping the group going and realizing benefit from participating. Encourage people to help shape the group to meet their own needs, and they will get out of it as much as they put into it.
- Finding Local Teachers: You may want to begin by considering local teachers (i.e., teachers in your local school district) as members of your teacher group. These types of groups may form around technology adoption, technology integration into the curriculum, or even around specific subject areas (math, science, writing, etc.). If your school district maintains a list of active teachers with their e-mail addresses, you can send people a message indicating your plans to form a teacher group.
- Finding teachers through e-mail discussion lists: If you decide to look outside your local school district, there are numerous list servers available for locating teachers who share your interests (see the Joining an On-line Discussion List activity in the Internet Resources below for more on these lists and how to join). One way to find teachers who share your interests is to subscribe to subject matter or grade level list servers.
- Finding teachers via Websites: There are also many Websites dedicated to helping teachers collaborate and communicate around shared topics. Visiting any of these Websites may provide you with contacts who may become part of your teacher group (see Internet Resources below).
- Finding researchers to facilitate study group activities: There are also a number of educational researchers who can help you formulate a teacher group and help support the functions of the group. Your local college or university probably has people who are already supporting teacher research groups or would be willing to help form these groups.
- Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
"The CoSN is dedicated to providing materials relating to school networking, and offers information on conferences, discussion lists, etc."
- Global Schoolnet Foundation
The GSN is a wealth of resources for all aspects of using the Internet in the classroom.
- Joining an On-line Discussion List activity
Activities on how to join an on-line discussion group from our Internet Access Module.
- Teacher's Edition Online @ Teachnet.com
A Website developed and maintained by teachers and for teachers. Includes sections on class decor and management, lesson plans, public relations and organization, humor, and links to other Websites.
- TeacherEd. - Teacher to Teacher
A place where teachers can post messages or carry on electronic conversations with other teachers around the world.
- Teacher Talk
Teacher Talk is published by the Center for Adolescent Studies at the School of Education, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. It is a publication for preservice, secondary education teachers. It is a series of World Wide Web documents.