Designing the projects is the most important phase of learning circles and for some people, the most difficult to understand. The reason is that we are used to having defined projects and clear project leaders. We join projects or create them, but rarely do both at the same time. One of the important dimensions of learning circles is distributed leadership. Participants are both leaders and participants. Creating or sponsoring projects is important as when we define a project, we take ownership of the project and responsibility to see it through to completion. When we participate in projects, the role is less intense but if a project doesn't mobilize participation, it will not be successful. While the circle shares a theme and the theme often influences what will be done in project, learning circles work best if each participant or participating group is able to "sponsor" one of the groups projects.
Sponsoring Projects around a Shared Theme
Participants join a learning circle for a purpose. The theme is the overriding goal or intention for joining the learning circles.
- Students who join a Places and Perspectives learning circle are exploring history and geography from a global perspectives, those in the global
- Graduate students in action research learning circles are involved in personal development through understanding their role in change.
- Teachers who engage in learning circles for professional development are learning how to manage learning circles.
- Researchers in an evaluation learning circles are exploring their practices as researchers
However each of the individuals or group of participants in a learning circles bring a unique way of examining the theme or project and invite the other participants to work with them to make their part of the circle work successful. By sponsoring a project, the group or individual takes on the role of leadership. In this way the responsibility for leading the projects is distributed across the group.
A great example of
how learning circles can be part of the planning of a new project can be seen in the plans for the for the IEARN carbon Foot Print project that is being planned byJim Carleton and Mali Bickley in Canada. Select the slide that describes how learning circles will work in this project. The more that students plan the activities that others participate in, the more faithful the implementation of learning circles.
3. Working on the Projects: Distributed Learning and teaching through progressive problem solving