English Now! Learning Circles Partner Profile: Genesis Center, Providence, RI

February 4th, 2022 | Blogs

Understanding Facilitators’ and Students’ Roles in a Learning Circle

My first English Now! learning circle at the Genesis Center in Providence, RI was in the spring of 2021 when we were all trying to get back to our “normal” life after the pandemic had changed our world in 2020. My students were six Latinas, all mothers, trying to learn English with very limited availability to attend a class. So, we offered them a learning circle where in addition to the once-a-week session we would spend together as a group, they could spend time at home learning online independently on USA Learns. As a facilitator, I offer students the space and structure to seek what they want to learn and why they want to learn it. I listen to their interests and requests and start investigating how and when it can be taught.

Here are some of the ways facilitators can lay the groundwork for learners’ success in a learning circle:

Provide learners with the supports they need

Students in the English Now! Learning Circle at Genesis Center in Rhode Island.Classes were still online, but how did we make them effective? It took lots of organization and planning. My supervisor, Bonnie Taylor, took the lead gathering all six students at Genesis Center to give them Chromebooks and set them up on Zoom and USA Learns. Once they were ready to start, they were put in different classrooms by themselves, logged into Zoom and met me! Meanwhile, I was home, answering their questions via our WhatsApp group as they were setting up. I’ll never forget their smiles when we were all finally on together and started going over the class schedule and syllabus.  

Build a lifelong learning mindset

After our first class using USA Learns, students went home to try using the platform on their own. They were excited to begin working and report back. USA Learns allows the teacher to see how much time students are spending on the platform and how they are progressing. What I found most fascinating was how the learner with the lowest level of English language proficiency spent the most time practicing and doing extra individual work. Her self-direction set her goals. She recognized the opportunity in front of her and took it. She used this platform from her smartphone and from her Chromebook

In our group sessions, we discussed the importance of being self-directed learners. Self direction allows students to learn at their own pace, on their own schedule. Learners set intentions each week for how much time they would spend on USA Learns. During each session we covered key points to succeed as a learner.. In this digital age, we can support learner’s goals and growth by steering them towards educational resources they can utilize anytime, anywhere. 

Adult learners participate in a World Education English Now! learning circle.

Set learning goals

Adult students are often motivated internally. When it comes to goal setting, it is important to remind students to set realistic goals. This is when students shift from “I want to learn perfect English,” to “I want to understand English better.” With that in mind they stay motivated. In our learning circle, students noticed that the more they practiced and the more they invested in their learning individually, the more they understood. USA Learns was an extra tool for them to practice, work, and develop their skills. With each practice, they continued moving closer to their goals.

Learners reflect on their learning with peer support

Reflection activities can help learners develop critical thinking skills and improve their ability to learn on their own. Doing so with peers helps to reinforce and expand their reflections. During our weekly sessions, we checked in on the independent work learners were doing between sessions, sharing successes and challenges. In one case, a learner shared about USA Learns, “I  love the dictation! But I didn’t understand my errors at first because I kept forgetting the period.” Another student immediately realized she had a similar issue and laughed saying “So that’s what I’m missing!”. 

Support learners goals and interests

“FINAL PROJECT” they read aloud, “Teacher, what will it be? Is it hard?” Cindy from El Salvador asked with a worried face and a shaking smile.. The final project was a 5 minute presentation using Google Slides or a short video about any topic they were passionate about. Each learner came up with a very different presentation that reflected their interests. 

By the end of this learning circle, students’ were ready to continue learning in one of the more intensive classes at Genesis Center. This learning circle reminded students they were in charge of their learning. It provided tools for equal learning opportunities. Those who needed extra practice took advantage of the opportunity and did it. It was through daily check-ins, group motivation, and support from each other that they reflected on the importance of self-direction, consistency, and dedication in order to reach their learning goals.

Yexcica Andrea Cappas Santiago is the Adult Ed Facilitator at Genesis Center in Rhode Island.

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