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The power of learning circles

April 25, 2024

On my morning walk, I spotted this new learning circle created on the grounds of Swinburne University. The idea of learning circles draws on Australia’s rich ancient indigenous culture.

For many Indigenous nations, the circle embodies creation in its entirety. Humans are not the highest in this order, nor do we have dominion over anything other than ourselves.

An indigenous learning circle isn’t just a physical space but a sanctuary to talk, share, discuss, educate, and hang out together—a place where respect and understanding thrive.

Humans have always sat in circles around the campfire for rituals and celebrations for millennia. Circles signify community, connection and belonging.

And now, universities are embracing this tradition to honor indigenous culture and add richness to the students’ learning journey.

Setting up a space, whether a learning circle or any other environment, implies more than just arranging physical elements. It declares a commitment to inclusivity and respect. It sends a message that everyone’s voice matters or not. Seasoned facilitators know this and spend time making deliberate and bold choices.

When sitting in a circle, instead of theatre-style rows, you are automatically more present, visible, and vulnerable. I also feel more awkward but in a good way!

There is something so leveling about being in a physical circle together – no hierarchy, no ‘sage on the stage’. Just a gentleness of learning, listening and growing together.

When was the last time you sat in a circle? What did that feel like? 

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