The learning circle

It gets the students out of the classroom into the fresh air and encourages them to think in a different capacity than usual

During the last week of term I took my students to the learning circle we have on campus.

This is a series of wooden seats supported by stone, arranged in a circular shape around a central fire circle. The site has been set aside and consecrated by the Darkinjung elders, our local Aboriginal people, as a place of learning. Forbidden are papers, pencils, rubbish, cigarettes and all forms of technology. Upon entering the learning circle, all people sharing within it are treated equally.

I took my students there to reflect on their TAFE journey so far and their hopes for the future. I asked them to choose two images from my photo language cards that represented these ideas.

Then we broke into pairs. Each pair shared their learning journeys over the last six months. And how their study has enabled them to see a new and clear pathway to their future.

Each person then shared their partner's story with the whole group. It was wonderful to hear how the students had grown in confidence and many had bright hopes for the future. It was here that I expressed my desire to help people overcome their barriers.

During the course of our working careers, many of the students we teach will have some type of barrier to their learning. Whether it's a physical or psychological barrier, it can be a real stumbling block for them. I feel that it's a great privilege to be in a position to make a positive impact on people's lives with support and encouragement.

The learning circle is a wonderful teaching activity. It gets the students out of the classroom into the fresh air and encourages them to think in a different capacity than usual. Sharing and a sense of community are both important aspects of the TAFE experience. The learning circle provides a platform for everyone to join and share without prejudice. It encourages students to be honest and open in the conversation and this allows for a richer learning experience.

Reflection and evaluation are key to learning. They allow students to see if they've achieved a goal. Or to clarify and absorb their understanding of what they've learnt in class.

By and large, teachers are creative in how they ask students to do this. Many teachers now ask their students to blog about their learning experiences. I'm a keen advocate for blogging. But the learning circle provides a different form of reflection that technology can't create. Face to face interaction allows the group to share nonverbal gestures. These can represent great depth in thinking and understanding.

The learning circle, like technology, is a tool for learning and one I will continue to use in the future. It doesn't matter if your TAFE campus doesn't have one. Just bring some chairs outside and form a circle on the grass in the sunshine. Then take a moment to savor the learning that's happening with your class.