What is a study circle?

Posted 8/17/2016

Andy C Peterson

A study circle can be described as a simple method of learning or acquiring knowledge on any subject. It can also be described as a democratic way of learning. Democratic learning, meaning that knowledge is shared by the members of the group and that all members of a study circle are equal.

A study circle would normally consist of between five (5) and a maximum of fifteen (15) members. The subject for any study circle is not decided by an individual, but by the need the group or members of the study circle identify. For example, a group of residents living in the same street may find the dirty street that they live in as problematic and may decide that a clean street be identified as a need. They will then start a study circle on how to address the problem of a dirty street, which then becomes the subject for the study circle. As mentioned earlier the subject of a study circle can be anything and has no limits.

Some ways of identifying a need may be to conduct a survey in the community where residents give all the needs / problems that they experience in their locality. Going from door to door and talking to neighbours have been found to be a very effective way of determining what needs and problems there are in a community. From this a common or very prominent need may be identified as the subject.

Interested members of the community can then be invited to a study circle, by way of a pamphlet, notice on a community notice board, a local newsletter or radio and even with new technology like sms’ing.

Some characteristics of a study circle:

  • Members of the study circle join voluntarily.
  • Study circle members have the same interest - to gain knowledge on the same subject.
  • There is no teacher or lecturer in a study circle.
  • The study circle can invite experts on the subject of study to share knowledge.
  • Study circles are free, no membership fee is payable.
  • No discrimination on ANY grounds is allowed in a study circle.
  • A study circle leader is elected or nominated by the group to do basic record keeping.
  • A study circle leader ensures that study material is arranged for the gathering.
  • The study circle leader is not the chairperson.
  • A study circle leader should listen carefully to the views of the study circle members.
  • All members' views are respected, no arguments take place in study circles.
  • No one person is allowed to dominate the discussions in a study circle.
  • All members have the opportunity contribute to the discussion and are never wrong!
  • Members decide on the length, or time frame that the study circle should continue.
  • A person may belong to more than one study circle at any given time.
  • The group, when they meet, sit in a circle facing each other.