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The Learning Circles Project
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How we learned - The Process
by Guy Ewing

Here you will read about how we did our research.

To read more, click here or download the PDF - 440kb.

In this project, we took an ethnographic approach to research.  That is, we became engaged with learning circles, familiarized ourselves with how they work, listened to the participants talking about them, became part of their world as much as we could, wrote about them out of this experience of engagement and listening.

Our writing took place in several stages.  First, we wrote narratives about the learning circles.  Then we wrote analysis pieces, focused on aspects of learning circles that seemed particularly important to us.  You can find these analysis pieces on this website by going to values and practices of learning circles.

This writing became the basis for discussion among the Researchers and the Lifelong Learning Working Group.  The discussion was long and complex, continuing as the Researchers continued to meet with learning circles and learn about them.  This discussion deepened the analysis and lead to new ways of understanding the learning circles as we met with them.  This, in turn, led to new questions to explore with the learning circles and among the Researchers.  We Researchers began to see ourselves as a learning circle in our own right.  And we were also part of a larger learning circle, the Lifelong Learning Working Group, which had begun the discussion about inclusive lifelong learning, and which continued to help us to understand the significance of what we were seeing in the research.

In the last year of the project, we brought more people into the process of analysis-through-discussion at a symposium.  The symposium brought together sixteen participants representing three rural learning circles, two Indigenous learning circles and four urban learning circles.  This group also included members of the Working Group, the Researchers, a staff person from the Federation of Women’s Institutes of Ontario and faculty and researchers from the Centre for Aboriginal and Indigenous Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. 

  In this project, our beliefs about research have been clarified.  We know that an ethnographic approach to research can be used effectively by adult educators, in this case literacy workers, who are not trained as researchers.  We know that analysis can be developed collaboratively, through discussion.  We also know that this discussion can be extended beyond the research group to the participants in the study, by applying the inclusive practices that we observed in the learning circles.

Beginner's Guide
How we learned
What we learned
Who we are
Our Partners
and Funder
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Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy National Literacy     Secretariat
National Indigenous Literacy Association
The Bay of Fundy Marine Resource Centre NALD