An award-winning dissertation about learning circles

In 2015, Cristiane Damesceno approached us about conducting her dissertation research on the learning circle program we had just started in Detroit. Things were just getting started, and my initial response was that we weren’t quite ready to bring external researchers into the mix. She pushed back and I’m so glad that she did.


Over the course of next 6 months, she participated in 6 learning circles in Chicago (that’s her in the red jacket!), and provided us with incredible insights that helped us shape our work.

We were immensely proud when she received the 2017 HSS Dissertation award at NC State for Massive Courses Meet Local Communities: An Ethnography of Open Education Learning Circles. Here’s an excerpt from her work, courtesy of Twitter:

“The power of Learning Circles relied on the interactions happening inside the study groups, but also in their relation to other communities. In this study, Learning Circles gave participants entry-level information about a topic. Their power, though, was not necessarily in their content. The participation, peer relationships, and affective bonds that emerged in these circles helped learners become more flexible absorbers of knowledge.”

That’s powerful stuff. Want to read more from Cristiane?


Thanks for the introduction, Grif. I did have the honor to observe learning circles in their pilot round and study the benefits that they bring to patrons. It was particularly interesting to see how learners became more aware of other online resources and felt more encouraged to use them to achieve their goals. The groups structured their study routines and gave them an accountability group.

Overall, I am interested in exploring how networked technologies change the ways people participate in learning communities and I enjoy working with individuals who have little experience using digital tools.


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That’s a really nice takeaway!

From your experience, are there anything that makes these outcomes more likely or stronger?

@NAILAH_M_BITI I would recommend reading her dissertation for your evaluation work

Thanks Nico! The dissertation is very interesting, albeit long!!!