The study circle is a simple process for small-group deliberation. For example, a study circle might be formed to discover more about a specific interest, e.g. the vegetation in a particular area, or more about a process e.g. community involvement in water quality monitoring.
A study circle comprises 10-15 people who meet regularly over a period of weeks or months to address a critical public issue in a democratic and collaborative way.
A study circle is facilitated by a person/facilitator who is there not to act as an expert on the issue, but to serve the group by keeping the discussion focused, helping the group consider a variety of views, and process difficult questions.
A study circle examines many perspectives.
The way in which study circle facilitators are trained and discussion materials are written gives everyone 'a home in the conversation,' and helps the group deliberate on the various views and explore areas of common ground. A study circle progresses from a session on personal experience ('how does the issue affect me?') to sessions providing a broader perspective ('what are others saying about the issue?') to a session on action ('what can we do about the issue here?').
Study circles can take place within organisations, such as schools, unions, or government agencies. Yet, they have their greatest reach and impact when organizations across a community work together to create large-scale programs. These community-wide programs engage large numbers of citizens in a community - in some cases thousands - in study circles on a public issue such as race relations, crime and violence, or an environmental education issue. (Source: http://www.pbs.org/ampu/sc.html)
This page originally copied with permission from the Citizens Science Toolbox.
Another description of Study Circles (written by the Study Circles Resource Center) is available on this website at http://www.thataway.org/resources/understand/models/studycircles.html.