Exchanging project work and developing the final product is the heart of a learning circle. There are multiple projects or parts of the task and each person is both leader on one project and developer on the others. On the project that one person (or one class) sponsors for the circle, there are leadership and organizational tasks that are important to track. Being the leader does not mean doing the project alone, it does mean organizing the circle members so each do their part to make this project a success. Effective contributions to all of the circle activities is core responsibility of good circle participation.
An effective way of monitoring circle progress is a weekly chart with the names of the participants and the names of the project. Each week each member checks the chart and marks any work they have done on any of the projects. While one might center their work on a few of the projects, over the weeks that follow, each circle member should make a concerted effort to offer their skills on each of the circle projects.
Progress Chart (examples are coming soon.)
Learning to work in teams is an important work skill. In learning circles, circle participants depend on each other to make their project a success. In any team, there is usually a weak link, someone who is unable to do as much as others had hoped. What happens in this situation? What makes a productive circle from one that falls apart? What does it mean to call a group a learning circle? Understanding productive and nonproductive strategies is part of the learning that takes place in this unique environment. When faced with a non-productive circle member what strategies are likely to improve the situation? What strategies are likely to lead to a worse circle outcome?
Learning Circles are created by the interactions of everyone in the team. Some Learning Circles are incredible experiences in group cooperation and teamwork. Everyone is ready and eager to work and each school team has the tools and time to contribute to all projects. In other Circles the participation levels are not well matched. Different patterns of access to technology are sometimes reflected in the volume and quality of materials exchanged. Understanding differences, offers of help and humorous reminders of deadlines are ways of helping others meet their deadlines. Insults, demands and angry pleas are not as likely to increase group productivity. Helping circle members to monitor their social skills as well as their work on projects can be a very valuable education.
4 Sharing the Outcomes: Publications, exhibitions, Presentations, Websites