About Us

This website brings together the people who are using the learning circle model in their work. If you organize, design, or support learning circles and would like to have your model and included please contact Margaret Riel (mriel@pepperdine.edu)

Learning Circle Facilitators

Biographical Connections to Learning Circles

Dr. Margaret Riel

Director, Center for Collaborative Action Research

I have been facilitating learning circles since 1983 when, working with colleagues (Jim Levin, Moshe Cohen, Naomi Myaki) some from different countries, we connected students from around the world. This lead to the development of Learning Circles on the AT&T Learning Network from 1987-1995. With support from AT&T, Learning Circles were moved to the internet and supported by iEARN. Barry Kramer and Bob Hofman continue to connect students from many different countries with Learning circles.

I have used learning circles to support action research in my university teaching in the Pepperdine Masters in Learning Technologies Program. The students work together in circles to support their projects. I also hold workshops and consult on the learning circle model. I worked with a talented team of researchers from the American Evaluation Association who are exploring the use of learning circles in their work. I used the learning circle model to organize the STAR-C Community of ARNA. See their newsletter on learning circles.

Dr. Linda Purrington

Pepperdine University

I have been facilitating Learning Circles for the past two years as an important component of my work with Pepperdine Educational Leadership Administration and Policy (ELAP) Ed.D. students. The Learning Circles are a core component of our Participatory Action Research (PAR) curriculum which spans two academic years/six terms. ELAP students form Learning Circles around common areas of PAR interest/focus and build upon their work with one another from one term to the next.

Learning Circles provide a forum for critical friend conversation and support for one another's PAR work. The Learning Circle conversations deepen understanding about PAR study and leadership practice. They contribute to personal leadership growth and transformation. I am also one of the editors of the STAR-C Newsletter that recently featured a learning circle edition.

Dr. Barry S Kramer

IEARN Global Learning Circle Facilitators

I have participated and facilitated Learning Circles first on the AT&T Learning Network and then for the past 15 years on the iEARN network. During the past 25 years I have been committed to modeling ways to teach which meet the changing needs of children. My strong commitment to teacher education is evidenced by the many workshops I have presented locally, statewide, and internationally on how I use the Internet for collaborative student work and publishing. As recipient of my County Teacher of the Year Award, and finalist in the Global School Network's Collaborative Teacher Award, I continue to explores ways to design a multi-media classroom for elementary instruction. Recently, I received my Ph.D. in Learning Science and Technology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The focus of my research was on examining teacher expectations for joining Learning Circles and learning outcomes for both teachers and students.

While I have been facilitating Learning Circles since the late 80's, in 2004 I became the iEARN Learning Circles Coordinator, taking over from Margaret Riel. Each session, I place a hundred or more teachers into Learning Circles, assign Learning Circles facilitators, and help manage the process of students and teachers working in Learning Circles. My goal is to continue to develop Learning Circles so that it can adapt and change to incorporate new collaborative technologies and thereby bring together more students and teachers throughout the world.

Wendy Jewell

Facilitator, My Hero Learning Circles

I have been facilitating the My Hero Learning Circles in collaboration with Dr. Barry Kramer from iEARN.org for the past 5 years. Our circle is divided into three circles... Elementary, Middle and High School.

Each session is 4 months long and each of the My Hero circles has between 6 - 10 classes participating from around the world. A sample session will have classes from, say, Canada, Belarus, Iran, Spain, Botswana, USA, Morocco, Russia and Romania. Barry and I send out all the materials and regular emails to walk you through this process. The completed work will appear on ORGANIZER pages at www.myhero.com and also on iearn.org.

Mali Bickley

Co-Coordinator of iEARN-Canada

My 5th grade class have faced a unique mix of challenges and rewards. Inspired by a visit from MY HERO youth reporter and filmmaker, Slater, my 5th graders ventured into uncharted movie-making territory by embarking on their own environmental short film. With the help of a software grant from Adobe’s Youth Voices program (an iEARN/Adobe collaboration), the class utilized “green screen” technology to put themselves into their own movie. Though they experienced technical difficulties at first, they remembered Slater’s advice that “Sometimes it doesn’t work out the first time.” The class hung in there and the results are stunning: Commit to Our Earth by The Dream Team.

Our students at W.H. Day Elementary really embraced the MY HERO Learning circle Project. Some of them had experience with My Hero and the LEARNING CIRCLES (iEARN) and much to my delight, I found that they were eager to help their fellow classmates. It’s an evolution as our roles have changed as teachers. We’re no longer Saints on a stage. We show them how to use (technology) responsibly, step back and let them take leadership. My student won the Multimedia Award from the Calgary Board of Education for their My Hero movie bout Mohamed Sidibay, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone.

Eliane Metni

IEA Director

I have been in education for over 20 years and have focused on global education since 1999. I am a founding member and director of the International Education Association to connect schools in Lebanon, the Middle East, and the world; hence IEA's tag line, Classrooms in Collaboration. I am also a founding member of The Round Table which coordinates the Global Teenager Project with a focus on quality of the content generated by classes internationally and innovative tools.

I have used Learning Circles in various contexts since 2004. In K-12 international online collaborative projects for classes to learn together as well as to explore social and critical issues that students have identified of interest to them. I have also used the concept in the Global Educators' course for future teachers to address global challenges in curricula in a simulated Learning Circle action research. Online Learning Circles enable students and teachers to share their ideals, goals, practices in an open and neutral environment. It enables the creation of meaningful dialogue and an in-depth exchange of ideas and we are using the concept in multiple settings towards enhancing learning and global understanding.

Dr. Bob Hofman

Executive Director at Global Teenager Foundation

I have spent 25 years teaching, with a focus on learning expeditions and ICT (information and communication technology) policy-based development. My strengths are in designing innovative global education programs that are generative, authentic, and respond to the evolving changes our world is facing. In 2000 I started my company ICT&E, where the 7 C’s of global learning became the theme of global exploration.

I work closely with the Dutch Ministry of Education and the National Educational Portal “Kennisnet.” Through Kennisnet, I coordinate the “Twinschool” project, which connects schools in Canada and the US on a 1:1 basis to schools in the Netherlands. As a designer of “tailor-made” (Special Needs Education) and “Borderless learning,” I manage two nationally respected innovative learning arrangements. I am also the chair for the iEARN (International Education and Resource Network)-Netherlands foundation and an assembly member of iEARN International.

As co-initiator of the Global Teenager Project, I am involved with a fast-growing and high-quality learning network that currently covers more than 20.000 students in over 42 countries.

Dr. James M. Skelly

Director, Ireland for BCA

I am a Senior Fellow at the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College in Pennsylvania and Visiting Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Ulster’s Magee College in Derry, Northern Ireland. I teach courses in the International Politics curriculum at the University of Ulster, including a course - The Global Conversation - that links students studying with me in Ulster with other students throughout the world through its online component including Learning Circles.

The Global Conversation essentially looks at how we've been living on the planet, what the consequences are, and what we must do to enable humans to have a viable life here in the future. I use learning circles to help link students from different institutions and backgrounds so that they can work collaboratively to develop their ideas around a small number of themes such as: Earth’s Resources & Their Degradation; Energy and the Environment; Food & Population; and, Global Climate Change. Currently, there are 45 students, either from or studying in 18 different countries, enrolled in the class. At the end of the semester the learning circles present their circle's work to the class and thereby emphasize the local aspects and manifestations of global problems.

Dr. Geri Lynn Peak

Two Gems Consulting Services

Baltimoe, Maryland

I am an independent evaluation consultant working out of my home in Baltimore, Maryland. I have practiced as an evaluator for the bulk of my 20+ year career. I strive to use innovative approaches to weave together insights that serve the people and programs working to better our world through the empowerment of young people, women, families and communities. I am a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, UCLA School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, now know by the name Bloomberg. . My evaluation training is from a public health perspective and my doctoral degree is in social demography.

As a Learning Circle Fellow, I stretched my imagination and learned new techniques that I have used primarily to engage my clients more actively in the evaluation process. I have not yet been able to move from design to realization of my own learning circle with other independent evaluation consultants but I look forward to moving forward with that dream in the coming year. I also am starting a learning circle with colleagues from other fields who have books to write, which I hope will inspire me to write a book on Virtues Evaluation.

Ms. Chris Kjonaas

San Diego, CA

I am an Assistant Course Coordinator for The Global Conversation, responsible for overseeing all student Learning Circles. My background is in International Education and International Relations, and I became involved with The Global Conversation in Fall 2009 during my Rotary World Peace Fellowship in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Collaboration between Dr. Skelly and fellow coordinators and teaching assistants has improved our use of the Learning Circles concept in the course each semester since its start in 2007.

Dr. Deborah Loesch-Griffin

Turning Point, Inc.

I earned my Education Specialist degree in Evaluation (1986) and doctorate degree in Educational Psychology and Child Development from Stanford University in 1987. Iowns and operates a small business, Turning Point, Inc., and provides evaluation coaching and capacity-building, facilitation, mentoring for non-profits in youth development, and community-building training. In 1998 TPI entered a partnership with the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to co-sponsor the Center for Program Evaluation (CPE) to begin training and mentoring individuals as professional evaluators. Through TPI, she works on the development and evaluation of programs that focus on educational reform and social change. She has served as an evaluator on local, regional, statewide and national projects.

I am exploring the use of learning circles as a AEA Fellow.

Dr. Jenifer Cartland

Northwestern University Medical School

I am a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Medical School, with appointments in Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine, and the Institute for Policy Research. My work involves improving local systems that serve youth. As a political scientist, I have a strong sensitivity to how “systems” facilitate or challenge youth wellbeing, be they health systems, educational systems, governing systems, or family systems. Evaluation is a very powerful tool in system change; my role as an evaluator is to contribute to positive system change through evaluation.

Dr. Jennifer Dewey

James Bell Associates, Inc.

I have more then fifteen years of evaluation experience with ICF Macro., Learning Point Associates, Andersen, and the University of Kentucky, with technical expertise encompassing a wide range of evaluation and project management skills. My doctorate is in applied experimental psychology, with a program evaluation specialization, from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. I have published in multiple journals, conducted over 45 professional conference trainings and presentations, and is a 2007-2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner.

In Fall 2009, Jennifer designed and co-facilitated a learning circle with Six Sigma Green Belt Certification candidates across multiple offices in ICF Macro. The goals of the learning circle are: 1) Organizational - Increase ICF’s corporate process improvement capability and capacity, and 2) Personal - Master the Six Sigma Green Belt body of knowledge. ICF staff have registered to take the Green Belt Certification Exam in their area on December 5.

Dr. Cythnia Tananis

University of Pittsburgh

I am an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies and teaches leadership, planning, and evaluation courses in the School Leadership Program. I am also the founder/director of Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity (CEAC), a initiative designed to bring together various faculty, graduate students, community organizations, and consultants to work together to build evaluation capacity in PK-20 education.

I use learning circles to build evaluation capacity of my team to write research reports and papers to make educational evaluation accessible and meaningful for both lay and professional audiences. One of the collaboratively authored papers was presented at AEA another is currently under review for publication, and two others are “in progress”.

Dr. Robert Pawloski

University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute

I am Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Center for Program Evaluation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute. My background is in educational technology, and after years of instruction and project implementation, I got into program evaluation. Evaluation is now full time and scope has broadened to include public health and community organizations. I am not a stranger to online environments, and in fact the face-to-face part of our Learning Circle experiment with AEA was more daunting to me personally.

My main goal in the AEA Fellow Mid Career Learning Circle experiment was professional development, as program evaluation had become my only focus. I probably expected more specific content. However, upon reflection, it may have been the collateral learning gained through new relationships that provided the most growth for me as a professional evaluator. The Learning Circle that I set to develop for my project has served as a vehicle for the early stages of a professional association of evaluators seeking to become a regional affiliate of the AEA. The first phase has been to develop bylaws. Forming collaborations for learning and work through the association will be the aim for the future of this Learning Circle.

Anna Ah Sam

Office of Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

As the Coordinator of Grant Writing, Evaluation and Assessment in the Office of Student Equity, Excellence, and Diversity at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UHM) I have presented and published in the areas of diversity, grant writing, and evaluation and have over 15 years of experience as an evaluator and researcher. I have B.S. in Child Development from Iowa State University, a Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health and Epidemiology from Tulane University, and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Hawaii.

As a Learning Circle Fellow, I have just completed my plan for a learning circle which is to develop the capacity of evaluators to engage in culturally sensitive evaluations in the context of Native Hawaiian culture.