Suggested timing: 10 minutes

By the end of this module, you will:

  • Decide if starting a team makes sense for you.
  • Learn how to support facilitators on a daily basis.
  • Understand the tools and supports available to you as an organizer.
  • Reflect on the roles and responsibilities required of organizers.
  • Draft a project plan to get learning circles started in your community.

How do you define a learning circle?

P2PU is a strong advocate for learning circles, but the concept of peers learning together to address common challenges predates our organization by thousands of years. Therefore, we don’t think we should tell you exactly what is or what isn’t a learning circle - that is for you to decide. From our perspective, there are a few core values that are essential in any learning circle, but beyond that, it’s up to you. In order to help you come up with your own working definition, we’ve compiled a number of “borderline” scenarios - real life examples of learning experiences that definitely shared some, but maybe not all, core values of a learning circle.

For today’s check-in, review each of these scenarios and decide which ones you consider a learning circle and which ones you do not. After you’ve done this, try to write a one sentence definition of a learning circle with your colleagues.

  1. After taking a Science of Happiness online course, a number of participants who live near each other decide that they want to start meeting at the library informally to discuss self-improvement ideas and how to live happier lives. They continue to meet every week to share and talk about happiness strategies without a facilitator.
  2. A group of people come together for a learning circle on community journalism. When they arrive, the facilitator tells everyone the online course on community journalism is no longer available and no other comparable course can be found. The group decides to talk about what their goals are and together they identify some readings, videos, and friends who can help them. The group continues to meet for two months. No online course or pre-set curriculum is ever used.
  3. Somebody puts up a flyer at a coffee shop, announcing that she’s going to be there at 2PM every Wednesday for the next six weeks to take an online course. Five strangers join her each week. Aside from a brief introduction and a few back-and-forth questions, they mostly take the course on their own.
  4. A group of neighbors decide that they want to start a community garden. They choose to meet once a week at the same time and come up with solutions and plans, although nobody is an expert on the topic. Their discussion is guided by resources that group members found online. At the end, they have identified a space to start their garden.
  5. A librarian organizes a weekly coding meeting for 15 people. The librarian arranged months in advance to have guest speakers from local tech businesses speak for 30 minutes each week.
  6. Ten people who are interested in public speaking come to the library to watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. They have a brief discussion afterwards and do not meet again.
  7. A community center advertises a six-week long program in which peers meet weekly to go through an online course to help them find jobs and improve their resume and interview skills. In order to be listed on the community center’s job board at the end, the center asks that each participant pay $10.
  8. Six graduate students form a weekly study circle to review each week’s lecture materials. At the end of the semester, each student feels like the group study experience helped them excel in the class.
  9. A librarian advertises a learning circle for advanced Excel training. On the first day, somebody shows up who is a beginner. The librarian asks this person to leave, as they do not have the prerequisites required for the learning circle. The rest of the group meets weekly and things go well.
  10. An ESOL teacher adapts the methodology of learning circles to make her classroom more participatory. Even though the students aren’t using computers, the teacher uses her own teaching resources to help guide the discussion each week.
  11. A climate scientist finds out that people in his local area are very interested in understanding climate change. He decides to offer a learning circle at his local recreation center. He decides to use the same curriculum from when he taught a course on climate change at the local university last fall. Most meetings consist of a 60 minute lecture and a short discussion afterwards.
  12. A bookshop learns about P2PU and decides that learning circles are a great way to organize book groups that they host regularly at the store.
  13. A Spanish language speaking group has been using MeetUp for a long time, and they’ve become frustrated that they now have to pay to access certain features. Someone suggests using the P2PU system to organize their weekly meetups instead.
  14. Seven people sign up for a HTML learning circle at a public library. After 6 weeks, everybody has had a good experience but only two people have finished all the course materials.

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