Training using Study Groups

April 9, 2012

Since I have started working at SEP I have been invited to a number of training sessions where an outside trainer is brought in and we get a mix of lecture and exercises for a couple of days then the trainer goes home. The last training I attended was a Jeff Patton training on Story Mapping. Although Jeff is a great communicator and the exercises he had us do complemented his lecture nicely, after the training I did not fully understand how to apply story mapping to my project. Therefore I had to learn how to apply it by actually using it with the client. It would have helped if there was a platform for continuing to learn how to story map and how to apply it to my project. Study Groups seem like a great tool for doing this.

During one of my book clubs on Fearless Change Matt Swanson shared a set patterns developed by Joshua Kerievsky on study groups. According to him a study group is “…a collection of individuals who meet regularly to improve their understanding of some non-trivial subject, like a body of great literature, by participating in dialogue”. Study groups provide a safe environment where people can “Study on your own but able to ask questions about what you didn’t understand and explain what you do understand.”

Typically a study group is made up of 6-8 people. A group leader creates an agenda and determines how many times and how often the group is going to meet. Before each meeting everyone is expected to do homework, such as read a chapter in a book, read a series of blog articles or solve a programming problem. Everyone should also list what they thought the key points of the homework were and what they did not understand. When the study group meets, the moderator will ask a starting question to get the dialogue started. The dialogue is the time to ask questions about what you didn’t understand about the homework exercise and explain to others what you did understand. The group recorder shall gather the takeaways from the meeting and post it on a blog so others outside of the study group will benefit from the dialogue.

I think if we created study groups after we had the Story Map training by Jeff Patton it could have been used as a tool to further our understanding of story mapping, help clarify misunderstandings anyone had and teach others what we learned in the Story Mapping training in a safe environment where it is OK to make mistakes.