University of Missouri Extension

DM403, Reviewed October 1993

Developing Effective Study Committees

Gerald Gabriel
Department of Community Development

Study committees can generate considerable enthusiasm with recommendations that will help solve the community's problems. They can develop a "group spirit" that carries over into the community. This "group togetherness" is greatly influenced by methods study committees use.

While there is no one way of achieving a "group spirit," there are known factors that influence its development.

Purpose and goals

A study committee working within a community will give time and effort to their assignment when:

When these conditions exist and remain foremost, continuation of the effort is usually assured.

Institutions or organizations appointing study committees need to make purpose and goals clear to committee members. They may undergo change during the search and discovery process, but newly created goals and purposes need constant clarification to the committee and parent body.

Membership and commitment

When members are chosen or accepted as volunteers, the basis for continued membership on the committee is linked with their:

Once the "group" begins to form, members develop expectations and move toward becoming a working team.

There is considerable value in constant membership in the group. New members being added or old ones dropping out affect the group's psychological and sociological structure. Members get to know each other, develop positive attitudes, and build a trust relationship that affects the group's communication and productivity. Even when there is diverse opinion on an issue, there exists an "open climate" that permits exploration and a movement toward consensus.

Stages of becoming a group

Time and active participation are essentials for group development. Such group development can be observed by behavioral changes in the group. Five stages are apparent:

Members may be at different stages at any one time, or the group may waver between stages before it jointly accepts its responsibility in the interdependence stage.

The leader's role

The leader's role in a study group is difficult. Most individuals who have chaired a committee have prior experience in a controlled or directed method.

The chairman who begins to switch his or her role from a control position to that of a group leader must unlearn this procedure. The switch can pose a real threat to the leader's ego and status. However, if other committee members are to be involved they must accept as much responsibility as the chairman.

Changes that take place in beliefs, values and attitudes are internal. A group can assist in making changes in which they have mutually shared the responsibility in creating a decision. In this type of exploration, a sense of cohesiveness and cooperation can be developed.

A working relationship within the committee can be facilitated by the chairman. This is done by the chairman's methods. The leader who is interested in developing people by increasing their ability to direct their own affairs by increasing effective decision making and maximizing personal development will recognize the self-esteem and dignity of each committee member.

The participative chairman will encourage the committee to:

Inter-group relationships are affected by a number of factors:


Study of issues play a vital role in intelligent community decision making. However, beliefs, attitudes and values may block out "facts" and information.

The psychological, or inner, structure of individuals can be changed only when people want to change them. Community norms, sentiments and customs may be impediments to individual change.

Changes on the thinking level (belief level) seem to be facilitated greatly in a small group in which the "group climate" is developed through a working, interacting situation.

The real road blocks to community development may be in the human relations areas. But the real potentials for community development can also be found in these areas.

For additional information, contact your MU Extension community development specialist through your local MU Extension center, or the Department of Community Development, MU, Clark Hall, Columbia.

DM403 Developing Effective Study Committees | University of Missouri Extension

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