Here is a step-by-step guide to help you implement the Circle of Viewpoints in your classroom.
The Circle of Viewpoints is a valuable tool for teachers to foster critical thinking and empathy among their students. As a thinking routine, it comprises a set of steps aimed at guiding students through the process of considering and exploring different perspectives on a given issue, event, or topic. By engaging in this routine, you equip your students with the essential skill of identifying and acknowledging the diverse viewpoints that surround a subject.
Before delving into the more complex skill of perspective taking, students first need to grasp the fundamental ability of recognizing and appreciating various viewpoints. This is where the Circle of Viewpoints proves incredibly useful. It aids learners in pinpointing the array of opinions, thoughts, and emotions that people may hold about a particular topic. By engaging regularly with this routine, students become more attuned to the fact that different individuals can interpret and react to the same subject in distinct ways.
One of the key advantages of using the Circle of Viewpoints is its capacity to engender a heightened awareness of the differing thoughts and sentiments of others. By systematically considering multiple viewpoints, students gain insights into the rich tapestry of perspectives that exist within a given context. This process not only promotes empathy and understanding, but it also reinforces the idea that diversity of thought is both natural and valuable. Ultimately, the routine serves as a structured framework that assists students in exploring each perspective comprehensively, leading to a more profound and holistic understanding of the subject matter.We have put together a step-by-step guide that will help you pull off Circle of Learning in your classroom:
Planning the process
When planning and preparing to implement the Circle of Viewpoints in a classroom, here are three important steps that a teacher must consider:
Careful selection of source material
The success of the Circle of Viewpoints hinges on the quality and complexity of the source material you choose. You should choose material that is not simplistic or straightforward, but rather rich with possibilities for diverse interpretations. Whether it's an image, story, issue, event, or topic, the chosen material should have multiple layers and dimensions that can be viewed from different perspectives. The material should encourage critical thinking and stimulate discussions that explore various viewpoints. It's vital to identify source material that challenges students to delve deeply into its nuances and encourages them to think beyond the obvious.
Diverse perspectives and characters
When selecting the source material, you should ensure that it includes various characters, elements, or aspects that can be viewed from different perspectives. This diversity in perspectives ensures that students have ample opportunities to explore a wide range of viewpoints. Consider how different characters or elements within the material might perceive the situation, issue, or event. This diversity provides the necessary foundation for students to engage in meaningful discussions and empathetic exploration of viewpoints. The material should also offer room for students to analyse the interactions between these different perspectives.
Guided contextualization and problematization
Your role in planning is crucial for guiding students towards effective engagement with the material. Before the routine, you should personally identify and consider the different viewpoints that are present within the chosen source material. This helps you lead the students in identifying and understanding diverse perspectives during the routine. Furthermore, you should ensure that the material chosen allows students to contextualise and problematize the topic, issue, or event. The exploration of viewpoints should contribute to a deeper understanding of the complexity surrounding the subject matter, encouraging students to analyse the interactions, conflicts, and connections between different viewpoints.
Performing the process
You can conduct the Circle of Viewpoints over the course of two to three class periods, approximately 35 to 45 minutes each.
Introduce the Source Material
In this initial step, begin by introducing the class to the source material chosen for the Circle of Viewpoints. This material could be an image, a story, an event, or any topic relevant to the curriculum. You must allow ample time for your students to engage with and absorb the details of the material. This might involve discussing key elements, analysing visual cues, or reading and understanding the story or event. Encouraging students to ask clarifying questions about the material helps ensure that everyone comprehends it thoroughly. This step is crucial for laying the foundation for the subsequent exploration of different viewpoints.
Clearly state the topic
After introducing the source material, talk about the specific topic or issue that will be the focus of the Circle of Viewpoints routine. Write this topic on the board or chart paper in a visible manner, ensuring that all students can see it. The clarity of the topic statement is essential for guiding students' understanding and focusing their exploration of various perspectives.
Generate a list of viewpoints
Engaging the class in generating a list of viewpoints related to the chosen topic is the next step. You must encourage your students to think beyond the obvious human perspectives and prompt them to consider viewpoints of inanimate objects, elements of the setting, animals, and groups indirectly affected by the topic. The identified viewpoints are then written around the topic on the board, forming a circle. This visual representation reinforces the concept of exploring multiple perspectives and sets the stage for the next steps.
Select a viewpoint
Once the list of viewpoints is established, you must instruct your students to individually or collaboratively choose a viewpoint they find intriguing and wish to explore further. Emphasising diversity in their choices ensures that the class will delve into a comprehensive exploration of the topic, encouraging a wide range of perspectives. Students may opt to work in small groups, each selecting a different viewpoint, or the entire class may choose one viewpoint to explore together initially. Ask your students to write down their viewpoint selection using the following sentence stem: I am thinking of (insert topic) from the point of view of (insert viewpoint)
Immerse in the chosen viewpoint
In this step, guide your students to immerse themselves in the perspective they have chosen. Encourage them to imagine themselves as the character, object, or element they have selected and to think and feel from that specific viewpoint. This process helps students develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the perspective they are exploring. They take time to consider the unique thoughts, emotions, and experiences that this viewpoint entails.
Describe thoughts and emotions
Building upon their immersion in the chosen viewpoint, prompt your students to describe their thoughts and emotions about the topic from that particular perspective. Encourage them to embody the character's or object's thoughts and feelings, essentially becoming actors who can articulate the viewpoint's viewpoint. This step challenges students to articulate their understanding of the perspective and share it with their peers, fostering communication and active engagement. Ask your students to summarise and record their thoughts using the following sentence stem: I think (describe the topic from the point of view of the character, object or element).
As students begin to grasp the viewpoint they are exploring, instruct them to think about what questions this perspective might have about the topic. Encourage them to generate questions as if the character or object were curious or puzzled by certain aspects. This step encourages critical thinking and helps students delve deeper into the mindset of the chosen viewpoint. Ask your students to write down their question using the following sentence stem: A question I have from this point of view is (insert a question from the character, object or element about the topic).
Share and discuss
The sharing and discussion phase involves students presenting their chosen viewpoints to the class. Depending on your preference and availability of time, this can occur within small groups or as a whole-class discussion. Each student or group explains their thoughts, emotions, and the questions they've formulated from their selected perspective. This step facilitates an open exchange of ideas, allowing students to learn from one another and fostering a sense of community exploration.
Reflect and assess
During the sharing and discussion phase, you can actively document key themes, differences, and similarities that emerge from the exploration of different viewpoints on the blackboard or chart papers. Observes how well your students differentiate between perspectives and assesses whether they grasp the concept that multiple viewpoints can be valid. Additionally, pay attention to whether your students are genuinely attempting to embody different perspectives or if they are merely reiterating their personal beliefs. The complexity and depth of the questions posed from the chosen viewpoints are evaluated to determine the depth of understanding.
Debrief and wrap-up
In the final step, you must do a whole class brief debriefing session, summarising the importance of exploring multiple viewpoints. Emphasise the development of critical thinking, empathy, and understanding through this activity. Encourage your students to carry the practice of considering diverse perspectives into their daily lives and future learning, fostering a broader and more inclusive understanding of the world around them.
Improving the process
As you introduce the Circle of Viewpoints to your classroom, you may initially notice that students tend to generate a list of viewpoints that is quite predictable. To expand their understanding and encourage creative thinking, consider modelling alternative perspectives. For instance, you could use a newspaper photo of soldiers marching to illustrate various viewpoints beyond the obvious ones. Expected viewpoints might include those of the soldiers themselves, onlookers, photographers, and readers. However, you can also explore less conventional perspectives, such as imagining the thoughts and questions of the earth beneath the soldiers or the battle-worn boots they wear. By demonstrating and valuing this diverse approach, you'll find that students quickly grasp the concept and begin suggesting a multitude of viewpoints.
It's important to guide your students toward deeper thinking and more insightful questions. While this might not happen immediately, it's essential to reinforce the idea of considering perspectives that go beneath the surface of the topic. Students often gauge their responses based on your expectations, so if they believe superficial or comical answers suffice, they might provide more of the same. Continuously challenge their thinking by emphasising the value of thought-provoking insights and questions. If you teach multiple classes, you can even compile responses from one class and share them anonymously with another class. This approach allows students to analyse and sort the responses based on the level of thoughtfulness and insight they reveal about the viewpoint being examined.
To facilitate a dynamic classroom discussion, consider a structured approach to sharing viewpoints. Instead of having each student individually read their perspective, encourage collaborative building of understanding. Start with one student sharing their viewpoint, and then invite others who share the same perspective to contribute and expand on that response. This collaborative process helps the class develop a comprehensive understanding of that particular viewpoint. Subsequently, involve a student with a markedly different perspective to present their ideas, encouraging active listening and thoughtful processing of information. Follow this with a student positioned between these opposing viewpoints, promoting a well-rounded exploration of perspectives. This approach fosters a more engaging and participatory discussion, as students become actively involved in considering and appreciating various viewpoints.
This modified version of the Circle of Viewpoints, inspired by Project Zero's Thinking Routines Toolbox, is a result of our application of it within Indian classrooms. We want to express our gratitude to the researchers responsible for developing Project Zero's Thinking Routines Toolbox and making it available for the global teaching community.