Stacey Goddard and Gwendolyn Haley from the Spokane County Library District co-facilitated a virtual learning circle using Coursera’s Science of Well-Being course, and we their experience was overwhelmingly positive:
“It’s been a rough couple of years, and facilitating this topic with this group really filled my (emotional) bucket! I was surprised by how willing participants were to be vulnerable and share their experiences with the group. Some of the shared stories got a bit heavy, but no matter what the rest of the group was engaged, non-judgmental, and ready to cheer on their fellow learners. This was such a great experience, and it was so great to see the group interactions every week!”
We asked the facilitators how they created such a positive learning experience, and we’re thrilled to share their answers below. We’ll also be featuring Stacey and Gwendolyn at our facilitator call on August 3rd (RSVP!) focused on self-care – hope to see you there!
Your participants seemed to really bond during your sessions. How did you create a supportive, engaged, and non-judgmental learning space?
Gwendolyn and I talked about how the group was bonding right after the first session. Frankly, we’re not sure why the participants in this group clicked so immediately and were so supportive and open with each other. I had intended to establish norms at the beginning of the first meeting but didn’t end up getting into much other than being respectful to each other. I also explained my role in making sure everyone would have an opportunity to participate and that I would keep our discussions moving. And not to buy into stereotypes, but all our participants were women—Gwendolyn and I wondered early on if this had anything to do with the general vibe of the group. I did try to consistently model engaged, open, and non-judgmental behaviors (both verbally and with non-verbal cues). Maybe that helped, too.
Do you have tips on how to make facilitating this learning circle feel restorative and manageable?
This group was very interested in all the research and studies referenced by Professor Santos in the Coursera class, so facilitators will want to be prepared to share those links if they get a similar group of attendees. One of our participants did share a link to a TED Talk, where the topic was breath work as meditation. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34
Were there any moments in your learning circle that felt challenging? How did you meet those challenges in the moment?
A couple of things were challenging. The first related to screen sharing for the videos—the first week especially, I was very rocky with my transitions (even with Gwendolyn’s help!). But the group was very patient with me, which helped me calm down and focus on what I needed to do. The other challenge I had was knowing how best to respond when a participant shared a particularly personal anecdote or example of what they were working on/going through. I think I was able to be sincerely supportive and not dismissive or just “platitude-y” in each case, but it was a bit nerve-wracking at times.
How did you promote your learning circle?
Our Communication Department sends out press releases for all our programs, and they promote everything on our social media channels as well. This learning circle also got “pride of place” with a featured slide on the main page of our website. We also have a number of customers in our service area who register for every single program the second registration opens up on our event calendar.
One of our participants found this learning circle because she “regularly stalks the p2pu.org website to see what learning circles are being offered.” She lives in Oregon, which she didn’t mention to us until halfway through!
Thanks again to Stacey and Gwendolyn for sharing their experiences! Join us on August 3rd to meet Stacey and Gwendolyn as we discuss self-care and libraries (RSVP)!