Education Reading Groups: Tips and advice

Research Reviews
Author: Lisa-Maria Muller
Date:

Guidance for organising an education reading group

Find all open access Impact articles, by theme for your reading groups, here.

Reading groups usually bring together a group of interested professionals on a regular basis to discuss different articles and how their findings relate to their own practice. They can be an excellent way to keep in touch with the latest research in your field and give you the opportunity to discuss it with your colleagues over a cup of tea and some biscuits (research has also found that incentives such as light refreshments help attendance).

Below we have collected some suggestions to help you set up a reading group in your school.

Members

Start by thinking about who wants to be involved in the group. Do you want the group to be subject-specific, or would you like to use it as an opportunity to discuss with colleagues from other subjects? Do you and your colleagues prefer a reading group that is specific to a phase, or do you prefer to share experiences across phases or year groups? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, each option comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. More specific reading groups might allow for more targeted discussions while reading groups with members from a wider range of subjects or year groups might allow for broader discussions and help members to think of topics that they might not have thought of otherwise. It might also be worth to think about the size of your reading group. Too big and people might have few opportunities to contribute, too small and discussions might be difficult at times when several people are unable to attend. This also needs consideration in online reading groups.

Format

Many reading groups are held face-to-face, but there are also excellent ways to set them up online using, for example, software like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams for live reading groups. You can read more about online reading groups in our guide. There are also ways to run reading groups in an asynchronous format, for example through a forum or social media.

Theme

Once you know who would like to join the reading group, you can start to think about the themes you would like to cover. Is there a specific topic, for example metacognition or retrieval practice, that you would all like to study in depth, from different perspectives and relating to a range of subjects? Or do you prefer to discuss a range of different topics to get a better idea of some of the buzz words you might have been hearing on- and offline and how they relate to your setting? Again, there isn’t a right approach. It will depend on the priorities you and your group decide on.

Timing

In order to ensure that everyone can benefit from the sustained learning experience and regular meetings that have been found to be beneficial, it will be helpful to find a day and time that all members of the reading group can commit to. Fortnightly to monthly meetings have usually been found to be most effective but it is up to you to decide, of course, which frequency works best for you and will allow all group members enough time to read articles and reflect on them before they attend a meeting.

Group lead

Research has shown that reading groups work best if they have one dedicated leader who is responsible for the administrative side of things such as sending around the articles and joining links and informing people of meeting times. It can either be this person who picks the articles, the group can choose together, or a different person can pick an article at each meeting. While the first option might be easiest to begin with, it also puts a lot of strain on a single person. You might thus want to rotate the person who is responsible for choosing articles and leading the discussion. This would also give all group members the opportunity to develop their skills in formulating compelling discussion questions and leading group discussions.

Discussion and reflection prompts

To help members of the reading group to prepare each meeting, it might be a good idea to share some questions to reflect on. These can also serve as a basis for discussion in your meetings. Here are some suggestions:

  • What were the key ideas in the article? Which resonated with you? Which challenged your thinking?
  • How could you apply the approach described to your setting? What changes to your classroom practice would you need to make if any?
  • Can you think of any potential barriers?
  • How has this article changed your thinking if at all?
  • Do you have any questions that remain after reading this article?

We hope that this short guide will help you in setting up a reading group, either face-to-face or online. There are also some open access Impact articles, sorted by theme, that you may wish to use in a reading group. Please do not hesitate to tell us about your experiences on Twitter by tagging @CharteredColl or by sending a message to our research team on research@chartered.college.