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Following up from the Sikkha Seminar on Leading Dharma Study and Discussion Groups Effectively Online, Ratnaguna and Danadasa, who led the seminar, have answered a number of questions from the seminar in the podcast below.
Here is eight different questions which they received from the seminar. If you are interested in a specific questions, the podcast timestamps are provide for each question. We hope you find this helpful!
(2:00 – 7:30) If there is the opportunity to choose, how many people would you have in a study group in order to promote effective discussion?
(7:30 – 10:30) My experience is that study groups need to be shorter, one and a half hours rather than 2 hours. Do you agree? How about having a break for tea?
(10:30 - 19:15; 22:30 – 33:00) I understand what was being said about the unmute moment adding in a natural pause that can be helpful, but I am also interested in exploring how to encourage more natural conversation/ back-and-forth within a group between the participants whilst also taking into account the practical limitations of the online format. I have the experience that online groups can more easily tend towards individuals making independent remarks which don’t seem to relate to each other, rather than them responding to each other as you would ideally have in a ‘normal’ discussion group, and therefore relying a lot more on the leader to direct the discussion than if we were physically together. I totally get what Danadasa was saying about it being good that one or two people can’t dominate the group by riffing off of one another, but what if you wanted to try and make space for this occasionally? I think especially for extroverts it can be very draining just sitting and listening to people speaking one at a time without being able to make any contribution. Any thoughts on this? Maybe a podcast on muted vs unmuted study groups - the positives and drawbacks of each.
(33:00 – 41:15) It was helpful for me to notice how awkward I find the silences and to note that that’s probably how it is for the women in my mitra study group who keep jumping in while others remain silent. It gave me permission to explore different ways of doing things in my group.
(41:15 – 45:45) How do you encourage more of a direct conversation between the participants? I find that in this medium people tend to all speak to the facilitator. Have you found a way of enabling it other than small breakout rooms?
(19:15 - 22:30) Another area to explore might be the way in which online meetings give us (as study leaders) the opportunity to easily record and review our own style of teaching? and participation habits and style? I believe this is a common teacher training tool … and it is very easy to do within zoom. I’ve really benefited from such self assessments recently.
(46:15 – 55:40) Ways of dealing with people who dominate a group/those who talk too much, ramble etc.
(55:40 – 1:02:00) Time management- how do you encourage collective responsibility for this and how do you skilfully move people on who go off on a tangent at great length- of course I never ever do this heaven forbid.