Having teachers and administrators form study groups to exchange ideas, plan lessons, and discuss school policy is one method of developing learning and partnerships among educators. Murphy (1992) notes that study groups also are useful for developing curriculum, creating a collaborative school environment, and establishing school reform.
Murphy (1992) states that study groups consisting of no more than six individuals can work effectively to plan common or connected instructional units, propose school-improvement measures, and research new instructional and learning techniques. The teachers can be from the same or different grade levels and should meet on a regular basis at any convenient time. At the meetings, one person should take notes describing the ideas talked about and the initiatives being planned.
For the study-group system to be implemented effectively, Murphy (1992) suggests that participation in a group should be mandatory for all teachers and administrators. The process of school improvement should not be viewed as an optional goal. Likewise, administrator participation shows that an investment is being made by the entire school toward professional and educational development.
The content and topics of discussion can be planned ahead of time by a overview committee composed of teachers and administrators. Then, when the group meets, the educators can focus their discussions on the topics they find most urgent or in need of action. They can share lesson plans, exchange ideas, develop collaborative units, voice concerns about school matters, and discuss and develop new instructional methods.
The study-group concept allows teachers and administrators to meet in an informal situation where they can learn, share, and investigate new methods of teaching. The goal of these meetings is for educators to learn from each other. If teachers can see the curriculum and methods used by other teachers, they can take the effective strategies utilized by others and implement them in their own classroom, creating a more collaborative and coherent educational environment for the future.
Joyce and Showers (1995) also suggest that a study group should be limited to six people. They further suggest that each study group should have a leader and that those leaders should meet periodically with the principal to discuss issues of school improvement and professional development. In addition, a representative from each school in the district should meet to discuss districtwide issues and to coordinate professional development between the schools and the district.