For nearly two years, we’ve sent out the same surveys to learners and facilitators around the world when they are finished with their learning circle. Some of this information gets put to immediate use (e.g. feedback about the quality of course materials goes straight to our courses page), and some of it was designed to capture a baseline understanding of learning circles for some grant funding that we received as a follow up to our first learning circle pilot project in Chicago.
In talking about feedback and evaluation at our Boston Gathering this past September, it was clear that partners each come to understand what constitutes a successful learning circle in different ways, and that the best way we can support them is by simplifying our baseline surveys and providing opportunities for our partners customize learner and facilitator feedback based on their own needs and interests.
We’ll publish a bit more on how we plan to do this in Part 2 of this posting. For now, we wanted to take a little time and review our findings from the current survey tools. (For more background on where this all came from, read our IMLS midterm report blog post from last August).
Learning Circle Participants
About 300 learning circle participants replied to the survey that we send out at the end of learning circles, which is about 15% of registered participants over the last two years. Nearly every respondant participated in a learning circle that took place in a public library in the United States, Canada, or Kenya.
The reasons that people join learning circles are varied: there is a near-equal split between personal interest, supplementing formal education, professional development, and looking to increase employability. 75% of participants stated that they set the goal that they set out to achieve during the learning circle, while less than 10% said that they did not. Additionally, 80% of respondents completed the learning circle, with the majority of those who didn’t finish dropping out because they were too busy to continue meeting face-to-face.
Word of mouth remains the most common way people hear about learning circles: 65% reported hearing about the learning circle from a friend or a librarian. This is important as it Importantly, learning circles has remained a methodology that works for a wide cross section of society: external evaluation indicated that successful learning circle participants came from a variety of educational backgrounds and that having “succeeded” at formal education was not a prerequisite for learning circle achievement.
We were also curious if participants were developing skills beyond the specific content of the learning circle, so we asked people to indicate whether they felt more comfortable doing a variety of things. On a five point scale, participants responded that they felt more comfortable working with others (4.4), using their library (4.4), feeling connected to their community (4.4), setting goals for themselves (4.4), navigating online courses (4.3), using the internet (4.2), and speaking in public (4.1).
Learning Circle Facilitators
Facilitators corroborated learning circle participants self-reported improvement in a variety of fields: the majority of facilitators reported that they saw evidence that learners were more confident in the subject matter, were using the library more frequently, developed interpersonal skills, and improved their technology skills. The vast majority of facilitators (97%) indicated that meeting in a public library (as opposed to some other place) contributed positively to the learning circle experience.
93% of facilitators indicated that they wanted to facilitate another learning circle, and many are interested in staying involved with P2PU in other ways as well: top responses included by promoting learning circles amongst colleagues, onboarding new facilitators, and developing new learning materials.
From here, we’ll start building out new pathways for learners and facilitators upon learning circle completion. Rather than just ask people how they want to stay involved, we’ll start providing new options both within P2PU (e.g. developing materials with us, co-facilitating future training workshops) and outside of P2PU (e.g. linking up with other educational, community-based, and workforce programs). How exactly we plan to go about that will be the subject of Part 2 of this blogpost.