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Debrief Circles

Teaching Channel Deeper Learning Series

Students learn by doing at EL Education's network of more than 160 schools. Math, science, and other subjects are taught through "expeditions" that connect them to their communities and teach them the value of service. Students are encouraged to have "academic courage," and they work alone and in groups to conduct original research, analyze data, and present their findings.

The work goes in stages as students solicit feedback and make revisions along the way. Each step in the process reinforces a culture of continuous improvement and refinement.


- So, inside circle you’re talking, outside circle, you’re what?

- [Students] Listening.

- Okay.

- Inside circle, 30 seconds or less, make it happen.

- Debrief is actually where the kids do get the deeper learning, and the deeper understanding of why it was what they did either worked or it did not work. And three-quarters what?

- [Students] One.

- [Maria] Today in math class we’re teaching ratios and proportions and so, I said what better way to get them to interact with proportions and ratios, than making waffles.

- We need some more dough.

- First question is, what would you have changed in your batter? Go ahead. Within the debrief circle, the inner circle was speaking while the outside circle was listening. And then, the outside circle will speak and then the inside circle was listening. And then students were to rotate. Inside circle, rotate two people to the right. Outside circle, what did you notice? Go ahead, share. So, students were able to speak to each other, and really hold each other accountable for what they were learning and how they were learning it. Inside circle, you’re going to share your wonders.

- In the beginning when first did the debrief circle, it was a major challenge. Students would not speak to each other, so you kind of had to go around and model it a few times.

- What did you notice?

- Now that we’re toward the end of the year, they’re definitely a lot more comfortable with each other, and they know who they are, and who their peers are. And so, they’re able to articulate better. Now, two targets that I think that were most important today, we’re going to go back and re-visit them. First one was, our learning target which is, I can describe the relationship between the two quantities. Inside circle, please let the outside circle know what it meant to do that today in class, go ahead.

- It meant you have to have enough batter to balance out the water.

- It’s the courage that comes up in students to be able to articulate what it is and how it is they’re learning. And then for other students to take it in, so that they can learn how other students as well are learning. Inside circle, rotate.

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