The following guest post was written by Barbara Blackburn and Ron Williamson, co-authors of Rigor in Your School: A Toolkit for Leaders.
One of the questions I’m often asked is how to use one of my books for a book study. Book studies are a great way to help develop a common understanding of a topic, such as rigor.
Guidelines for Facilitating a Book Study:
- Membership ideally is optional, but may be required.
- Decide a meeting schedule, meeting place, length of book to be read and what will happen after the book is read. It is recommended that meetings last no more than one hour and be held at a consistent time and place.
- Select a responsible facilitator to keep the group on task and help manage the meetings.
- Select a book with a clear objective in mind. For example, use Rigor is not a Four Letter Word or Rigor Made Easy with teachers to launch the conversation about rigor in the classroom. Or, use Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way with school leaders or your school improvement team.
- Conversation is important in a book study. Members of the group share insights, ask questions about the text, and learn from others. It is important to talk about how the ideas about rigor can be applied directly in the classroom or school and how to overcome any potential obstacles. What myths about rigor exist in your school? What are the barriers to implementing rigor, and how can you overcome them?
- Journaling is a useful way for members to think about their reading and reflect on how it might be used.
In Rigor in Your School: A Toolkit for Leaders, Ron Williamson and I include a feature called "What if?" where we answer questions from leaders. Here’s the most asked question (and our answer) about book studies.
Question: We’ve tried a book study before and one or two of our teachers dominate the conversation. Often, they try to draw us off track into something else. How can I prevent this or at least lessen the impact?
Answer: This can be a real problem in book study groups or any other collaborative work. There are some things you can do to minimize the impact. First, you might use a pair-share strategy where you pair participants for the discussion. This would lessen the impact on the entire group. Second, you will also want the group to agree on other ground rules. They might include norms about how frequently a person can speak, or use of a parking lot to capture the thoughts and ideas without impacting the conversation.
Read Eye On Education's Book Study FAQs.