Teachers’ Support Groups
“To be most effective,
training should include
practice, feedback, and
Bruce Joyce and Beverly Showers
Support groups are a great way to grow professionally. As a teacher, you fulfill a number of roles for your students both intellectually and socially. In addition to learning about different teaching techniques, support groups can help you deal with the responsibilities and pressures that come with the profession.
If there is not a teachers’ support group already at your school or in your area, you may choose to start one. Taking the sole responsibility for starting a well-planned support group can be time-consuming. It may be helpful to invite colleagues to meet for a general discussion about what kind of support group everyone would like. As the group evolves, the details concerning agenda and procedures will iron out as you customize the group to fit your needs.
The Study Group Approach
This type of group focuses entirely on learning teaching strategies through education, practice, feedback, and coaching. Agenda items might include:
- videos of current techniques
- analysis of published programs
- modeling and demonstration
- discussion of handouts and journal articles.
Suggestions for Study Groups
- Ask a volunteer to read about a topic and share what she learns at the next meeting.
- If your group is interested in a certain teaching technique, send one teacher to a seminar for training. She can then be the on-site trainer at your next workshop.
- Plan a “field trip” for your group. Visit a school that has a program you’d like to implement.
- If you like what you hear at a presentation, invite the speaker back to give a demonstration in your classroom.
- Observe each others’ classes and give feedback.
Questions from a Support Group Near You
Think that you have all the answers? Well, you do! You and your colleagues are your own best resource when it comes to digging deeper into topics that interest you. Take a look at how one teacher’s support group handled these thorny problems:
Group Member: Can we take a look at informal assessment and evaluation?
Teacher Facilitator: Sure. For starters, let’s have Mary tell us about the seminar she went to on portfolio assessment.
Group Member: I need help. My new student Petra reads about a year and a half below grade level and hangs back when we divide into reading groups.
Teacher Facilitator: I see we have some early intervention experts here this afternoon. Let’s role-play some teaching strategies.
Group Member: What does educational research say about teaching language art skills separately from reading and writing?
Teacher Facilitator: Let’s ask Brenda. She’s read a lot of articles about this very issue.
Group Member: How much do we want to be involved in designing the new curriculum?
Teacher Facilitator: Let’s take a poll and see where we stand. Should we start attending the planning sessions?
Group Member: I’ve heard about personal reflection logs. I’d like to know if they are useful for teachers and how to keep one.
Teacher Facilitator: I see a lot of blank faces! This must be a new topic for us. Who’ll volunteer to read up on these logs and report back to us?