A book study can be an excellent professional learning tool for educators. The rich discussion generated from the sections and chapters in the book can improve awareness and enhance skills to support the needs of students. However, a successful book study requires careful planning, consideration, and management of logistics. Below you will find a guide to help you structure a book study with your staff.
Before starting your book study, it is important to establish the specific reasons for doing the study. An agreed upon set of goals and objectives will help structure the activity, establish buy-in, and help participants focus on the topics discussed. Below are some examples of goals and objectives for the use of this book study with Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: Second Edition.
Participants in the book study will be able to:
1. Define and describe the impact of trauma in schools and classrooms.
2. Identify the core elements of a trauma-informed school.
3. Apply a culturally responsive lens when working with students with trauma histories.
4. Examine and reflect on their role in the support and education of all students, particularly those with trauma histories.
5. Provide direct and indirect supports and strategies for traumatized students in their classroom/school.
6. Identify school-wide, trauma-informed policies and practices.
Careful consideration of the timeline of the book study is important. Too long and members lose interest and the value of the discussion may decrease. Too short and members may feel rushed to cram all the readings and discussion may lack depth. Finding a balance is important. One consideration is using single grading/marking period or 8–9 weeks as a natural timeframe.
Timing and Frequency of Meetings
The group should consider how often they meet—groups may manage meeting only once per month provided that they have a forum to communicate electronically between meetings.
When meeting in person, identify days and times that work for most—during lunch? Before or after school? Weekends? Professional Development days only?
Identify the Group and a Group Leader
A group can consist of an interdisciplinary team of individuals (e.g., teachers, school mental health staff, administrators) or a group filling a similar role in the school (e.g., school counselors). Ideally, groups should not exceed 10 or 12, though multiple groups can exist simultaneously.
Each group should also identify a group leader who can:
1. Help the group stay on track, and on schedule
2. Set up and establish the infrastructure, schedule, and timing of the book study
3. Ensure everyone has a copy of the book
4. Setting expectations for participation
a. Be an active listener (e.g., phones off)
b. Encourage sharing
c. Come prepared having read the materials (though even if you didn’t, come anyway)
d. Allow for disagreement
e. Establish an expectation that everyone has a chance to speak
In addition to timeline considerations, the structure of reading chapters is important as well. Several strategies can be utilized:
1. Each member reads the same chapter and the group moves chapter by chapter.
a. Discussions can use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, or individuals can take turns facilitating discussion.
2. Group members are assigned specific chapters to read, individually or in teams, then come together to discuss. Those assigned to specific chapters must share or present on highlights.
3. Groups can focus only on a specific section of a book at a time, depending on established goals and objectives.
Some book studies use the traditional face to face meeting to discuss the topics, while other formats involve using online platforms, while yet another way is a combination of face to face and online platforms. For example, one school system utilized Workplace by Facebook as a method to communicate with their group on what chapter they should be reading, posting observations and insights on what was read, and to communicate their face-to-face meetings. Others encouraged members to share insights via social media, create blog posts, or highlight brief passages that resonated.
Consider a Culminating Project
The group might consider presenting to other staff on what they learned during the book study, or writing an article for a local school newsletter or the website. This may also help obtain buy-in from administrators to support the book study.
Groups may wish to engage in an evaluation of the impact of the book study. Feel free to use or adapt the evaluation below as a tool, or create your own. Evaluating the impact of the book study, and areas for growth, can help to plan better for and provide data to support a book study in the future.
Group Discussion Questions (in addition to the ones at the end of the chapter)
Once the group begins reading chapters, the group facilitator will want to engage them in conversation and reflection. Encouraging members to share their insights, thoughts, and ideas will allow others gain insight and understanding. Again, this can be done in a variety of formats. In addition to the questions at the end of each chapter, the facilitator may want to use the following questions with the group:
1. As you read, reflect. What connections can you make between the passage and your school? Share some details from the passage and explain how it connects with your school?
2. As you read, reflect. What are the connections you make between the passage and your practice as an educator?
3. How does this passage make you think differently about your practice/role as an educator? Please use details from the text. How do you see your role differently?
4. What are some immediate things you can do differently in your classroom or your practice?
5. What are some things you already do that would be considered “trauma-informed”?
6. What are some things you need to develop or consider for the long term?
7. What are some ways you can apply what you learned in this chapter?
8. What are some ways you can promote trauma informed practices going forward?
In addition to discussion, group facilitators may want to consider other activities to keep the book study momentum. Below are some examples of activities:
1. Book Snaps
a. Take a picture of the passage you are reading and mark it up, highlighting something that jumped out to the reader or something the reader really connected with.
2. After each chapter ask for 6–7-line summary to share with the group.
3. Video conference a discussion session with the book editor/authors.
4. Create trauma-informed toolkit with local resources, informational documents, and presentations to be shared with schools.
If you have any specific questions or comments about the book, or would like to inquire about a formal training, please contact the book editor, Dr. Eric Rossen, at email@example.com