Facilitating a Study Group

Once a study group has been formed, a facilitator is important in terms of guiding each session. This person does not have to be the most knowledgeable in the group. In fact, many groups rotate the responsibility so each member has an opportunity. The facilitator must be well prepared, familiar with the reading material, capable of asking questions to aid discussion, and clear on the goals of the group session. In a sense, all members of the group help to “facilitate” through active listening and participation. Sometimes the most difficult aspect of leading groups is keeping them focused and encouraging all participants to exchange thoughts and ideas. Some suggestions involving group interaction follow.


Set up an atmosphere that is comfortable and relaxed. The goals of the group should be discussed and determined in the first session. It is important that all the participants agree on the objectives.

Establish and Prioritize an Agenda

Straying far from the topic at hand can frustrate group members. A delicate balance is necessary to allow flexibility but use time constructively. The facilitator is responsible for keeping the discussion focused.

Start Each Session with a Review

Everyone can participate in a review by sharing class notes and interpretations of the readings. Some repetition of the main points can help provide a framework for the session.

Include All Group Members

Create an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the study session. You may need to draw out some members, or gently request others to limit their contributions. Listening carefully will also set an example for participants.

Synthesize Ideas or Summarize the Discussion Occasionally

Consolidate related ideas or review a cluster of information periodically. This can reinforce the material and build a solid base of information.

Close the Session

It may be helpful to ask each participant to write down the most important ideas that came out of the session. This can be used to open the next meeting. Sometimes a summary is necessary. Always remind the group of the next meeting time and place, who will be facilitating, and what individual preparation is necessary.