A Learning Circle is a series of discussions, demonstrations, reports on readings and presentations through which the members of the Learning Circle share their knowledge and experience, learn new information and apply and test new skills.

 It is a 

  • a small informal group that meets to study a subject or body of knowledge of interest to its members
  • a way of structuring a series of small group meetings to draw on the knowledge and experience of a group of people

 Why use a Learning Circle?

  • A Learning Circle makes learning more efficient, since reports, demonstrations and teaching experience are shared among the members of the circle.
  • A Learning Circle provides an interactive learning situation.  Teaching and training involve communication with people, and it is difficult to develop skills without a group of people to offer constructive criticism.
  • A Learning Circle gives essential feedback to learners from colleagues who are working on the same body of skills and information, and whose suggestions on techniques and resources are hence particularly valuable.
  • A Learning Circle offers the opportunity to organize demonstrations and workshops for which numbers of people are necessary.
  •  How do Learning Circles work?

     A group of people comes together to examine an issue or body of knowledge in which they are interested.  After some initial planning, the group sets up a series of meetings (normally six to ten) with a specific (set of) goal(s) that the members of the group wish to accomplish through the meetings.

     The study of a particular subject or skill usually involves  a progression from definition of a subject, through study of the subject to demonstration by individual participants to a workshop involving a number of participants (and intended specifically to apply learning to members' on-going projects).

     The Schedule of Learning Circle Meetings

     The Learning Circle schedule is set by the group as a whole. It is created in the planning meeting and tells people when and where to come and what they should prepare.

     A schedule should be set up for a period of at least six but not more than ten meetings. This allows participants to  plan their time effectively, but does not lock the Learning Circle into a rigid plan for the seemingly indefinite future.

     Types of Learning Circle meetings

     One way of looking at the learning circle process is to identify different types of meetings that take place in the life of a learning circle:

    1.        The Planning Meeting (in which a schedule is set up)

    2.        The Definition Session (in which a problem is defined for further  exploration)

    3.        The Study Meeting  (in which a problem is explored in some depth)

    4.        The Workshop (in which a number of participants come together to explore applications of learning from other Learning Circle meetings).

     Most Learning Circle meetings are a combination of definition and study of topics through discussion and the demonstration of skills. Planning, at least for the next Learning Circle meeting, is an essential part of every meeting.

     Roles in the Learning Circle Meeting

     Ideally, all members participate in all meetings. Although they will rotate responsibilities from meeting to meeting, at any one meeting members will be identified to play the following five defined roles:

    1. Moderator

    2. Recorder (assistant moderator)

    3. Presenter (of a report)

    4. Participant

    Moderator:

    The moderator for a particular meeting has the responsibility of facilitating the meeting and keeping the discussion on track.  In general this means that the moderator ensures that the agenda and the general meeting process are followed. 

    ·         The moderator prepares the agenda (preferably in a form that can be distributed to participants/potential participants prior to the meeting and on a flip chart that can be posted in the meeting) in advance of the meeting. 

    ·         The moderator does not chair the meeting, in that remarks are not addressed to the chair. 

    ·         The moderator is there largely to see that the meeting stays on track, to remind people to stick to the agenda and to see that the basic requirements for the different parts of the meeting are met.

    Recorder:

    For most groups, the recorder is the person who is designated to become the moderator at the next meeting.  As a recorder,  his or her responsibilities are to act as timekeeper and minute-taker.  ¥As a timekeeper, the recorder keeps track of the time and announces to the members of the Learning Circle if they fall more than ten minutes behind the times that have been established on the posted or agreed agenda.

    ·         Any serious deviation from the established agenda should be the result of a conscious group decision, not accident or failure to keep track of the time.

    Presenter:

    The role of the presenter is to prepare a 10 to 20 minute summary report or presentation to deliver to the Learning Circle meeting.

    ·         Presenters are not asked to give a detailed paraphrasing of the material, or to analyze, critique or review it, although they will have a chance to offer their reactions to the material during the time set aside for discussion.

    ·         A presenter is asked to report, in outline or point form, a concise summary of the information.  People may ask the presenter to fill in certain details after the report, and he or she should be prepared to do this. The report itself should provide people with enough information, in a coherent form, to enable them to discuss the material intelligently and know where they need to know more.

    ·         Normally, the presenter will prepare a point-form outline which can be handed-out to support the presentation, and which later can be included as an attachment to the Minutes.

    ·        Presenters should remember as they are preparing their reports that they are reading and reporting for all members of the Learning Circle.

     

     Tips

    • The ideal size for a learning circle is between six and twelve participants.
    • A classroom is not the ideal setting for a learning circle – you will want to sit around a table.
    • Have a flip-chart or whiteboard in the room to take notes and to keep a common record of meetings.

    For more information about Learning Circles or help in planning your Learning Circle Process, contact Rudi Aksim.

 

Updated June 06, 2010

  Page maintained by Rudi Aksim