This topic contains 18 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by  Caroline Coady 5 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Elizabeth Eagle

    I have tried this approach before, and always adapt a circle based conversation depending on the group of students. I do find it difficult to have everyone participate, especially if a student doesn’t feel comfortable and too much on the spot. I love the idea and do plan this upcoming school year to try more intimate conversations and critiques in this manner; but I feel that I can’t “force” a student to share.


    Circle pedagogy, as a feminist art teaching methodology used and discussed by Judy Chicago, involves the students’ voices (each is given time to speak and expected to participate) rather than students circle around for a teacher demonstration, or to hear the teacher read a story, or the teacher to circulate around the room.


    Judy Chicago

    It has been interesting to me to read the comments by different teachers in terms of their efforts to use a circle pedagogy. One of the critical elements is the use of silence; that is, when a student doesn’t speak up immediately when it is his or her turn, teachers often step in because they are uncomfortable with silence. But silence can be useful as it can give hesitant students time to work up the courage to speak. Most students learn quickly that teachers will (unfortunately) fill up all available space and use that knowledge to avoid taking the risk of speaking up (risky because many students are afraid of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing). All the more reason for teachers to learn not to be afraid of silence and to see it as a pause, a moment for reflection, a quiet time rather than a void to be immediately filled.


    Caroline Coady

    As a student, I’ve been involved with circle activities just like this throughout my life. As someone who grew up shy and is only just learning to open up, this kind of group activity always made me nervous. The “pass” was my best friend, but only calmed my nerves until it was finally my turn to speak.

    Looking back now, I realize that by the end of the activity, I had heard and learned so much about the others participating. I had even realized that talking in front of others wasn’t so bad after all, especially when we were all in the same vulnerable state of displaying body language. Of course, as a child, I would forget this feeling by the time it was used again.

    For this kind of activity, it’s definitely important to remember that some students may not feel comfortable speaking. Perhaps on the first day or two, allowing them to simply listen could help them slowly get more comfortable. However, I do think it’s a great method to get students to share things with each other that they typically wouldn’t if they were in a normal classroom setting and the teacher was asking for volunteers. Having people across from and on either side of you doesn’t really leave you with the option to not include yourself; you don’t have a choice. And once you see others participating, it’s much easier to share your own feelings and opinions.

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