Revolutionizing Higher Education: The Role of Circles in Restorative Pedagogy

In a transformative session with the Restorative Pedagogy Network, Lindsey Pointer shed light on an innovative approach to teaching within higher education institutions. The discussion centered on the use of the circle process in university classrooms, a method deeply rooted in restorative justice principles.

Dr. Lindsey Pointer, renowned for her extensive work and research in the field of restorative justice, has donned several hats – from being a facilitator to an educator. Her academic achievements and association with institutions like Vermont Law School and the National Center on Restorative Justice (USA) made her insights even more compelling. Her literary contributions, notably “The Little Book of Restorative Teaching Tools” and “The Restorative Justice Ritual”, further fortified the depth of her expertise shared during the presentation.

The heart of the discussion was the outcome of a workshop conducted with members of the Restorative Pedagogy Network. This global community of educators, dedicated to teaching restorative justice in higher education, explored the myriad potentials of the circle process. It was evident from the insights shared that circles aren’t just a teaching tool; they represent a paradigm shift in classroom engagement.

One of the most profound impacts of the circle process is its ability to foster relationship-building. In a conventional classroom setup, the interaction is often one-dimensional, with the educator speaking and students primarily listening. Circles disrupt this pattern, allowing for a more inclusive and multi-dimensional interaction. Everyone in the circle, be it the professor or the student, gets an equitable opportunity to speak, listen, and engage.

Additionally, circles play a pivotal role in establishing group norms. Instead of top-down instructions, these norms are collaboratively developed, ensuring a sense of collective ownership and responsibility among participants. Such an approach naturally deepens engagement with class material, making the learning experience more participative and enriching.

Pointer emphasized the foundational tenets of restorative pedagogy that underpin the circle process. By using circles, educators can create an environment where every voice is valued, differences are acknowledged, and collective wisdom is prioritized. These are not mere theoretical benefits; they manifest in tangible classroom outcomes, such as enhanced participation, deeper understanding of concepts, and a stronger sense of community.

One critical aspect that Dr. Pointer elaborated upon was the design of circle questions. The efficacy of a circle session significantly depends on the nature and structure of questions posed to participants. These questions, carefully curated, can steer discussions, evoke profound reflections, and stimulate critical thinking.

In conclusion, Lindsey Pointer’s presentation offered an enlightening perspective on the transformative potential of circles in higher education. For educators grappling with challenges of student engagement, inclusivity, and fostering a sense of community, the circle process emerges as a promising solution. While the concept might appear simple at first glance, its impact on classroom dynamics is profound. As institutions worldwide seek more effective pedagogical strategies, the circle process, grounded in restorative justice principles, could very well be the answer they’re searching for.