‘Circles’ in the Classroom and School Community

Educators around the world are welcoming a new period in education that is heralding a paradigmatic shift in teaching and learning methods. There has been a recent and more concerted effort amongst educators to build learning communities that are student centred, teacher facilitated, and founded on processes that engage students and promote shared learning, teaching experiences and responsibilities. In classrooms and other educational settings, the practice of gathering in ‘circle’ to share and discuss ideas is on the rise.

Peacemaking circles have long been used throughout the world as a means to bring people together to celebrate, mourn, plan, share stories, and resolve conflict within communities.  When people are invited to gather in circle, they share in the opportunity to listen to the stories and experiences of others. Circles are a readily learned and accessible means of promoting shared learning, community building, value teaching and peace-building capacities in children and young people.  Circles are particularly effective in school and classroom environments because they encourage respect and understanding, as well as the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Circle processes allow for open communication, relationship building, consensus decision making, self-reflection, story sharing, value sharing, discussion, conflict resolution, healing, understanding, empathy, and so much more. In an age where hierarchical and didactic teaching principles and methods are gradually being replaced by student centred learning processes, circles may prove the most valuable and effective tool for promoting shared teaching and learning. For more information on Circle Processes, check out The Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach to Peacemaking by K. Pranis (2005).

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