The most successful study groups are welcoming, friendly, personable environments. Complete newcomers to coding should feel comfortable, and a bit (or sometimes a lot) of confusion is expected as you work through new concepts and tools-- it’s part of the learning process.
This isn’t a space to show off your own skills or an opportunity to outshine others, it’s a mini-community where you’re all getting to know each other, and working together to help each other learn. It helps for Study Group Leads to create this space with intention, as it may not be typical of some research and work environments. Even if another member is presenting material, the Study Group Lead should be in a back-seat facilitator role, gently and thoughfully helping to ensure the meeting goes well.
In this video Madeleine Bonsma-Fisher, of the Unviersity of Toronto Coders group, talks about how she worked to create a welcoming Group environment.
Here are a few more tips for facilitating Group meetings:
Arrive Early. Get to the meeting space 10 minutes before the start time so you can set up, and be sure to give arriving members some time to greet each other and get settled before you jump into the session.
Greet newcomers Say hello! Introduce yourself to any newcomers and welcome them to the Group, or have someone assigned to do so at each session.
Make Introductions. Ask participants to introduce themselves to the Group. Ask them to briefly describe their research practice, tools they use, and any skills they have, or want to gain. This is a great way to discover common interests among members.
Be relaxed and friendly. Make sure your tone of voice and body language are open and positive.
Encourage questions! Making time for dialog and questions speeds learning for all members as you come to answers together. There are no stupid questions!
Slow down. Slow the pace of lessons and presentations down if people seem to be struggling-- there’s no rush.
Share successes AND failures. If something isn’t working, encourage members to share! It’s an opportunity to practice debugging skills together. The more eyes on the problem, the better!
Orient newcomers to Group Systems Make sure newcomers know where the website is, and tell them about the GitHub repo, email lists, social media feeds and groups, and any other systems you use.