Circles Meta Journey

circleIn the first wave of testing Circles, we learned the limits of our learner’s ability to absorb content. We’ve tried to boil things way down to have a simpler experience during this next wave of tests. We restricted ourselves to one “drop” of content every two weeks, with an activity and discussion. This is designed to nudge the group forward from strangers to becoming a “level one circle” that functions smoothly. They are open, believe brains are plastic, trust each other, give and receive feedback well. They use the circle to set and monitor their personal learning goals to reflect and deepen their learning. Ultimately, we want them to reach week twelve of “level one” open to the power of a Circles experience, ready to keep going. So here’s our updated draft plan for doing that. We’d love any questions and feedback.

Meta Journey Overview

In the first three months of a journey with Circles, learners form a level one “learning circle,” capable of solving each other’s problems and accelerating progress towards their personal goals. Learners will get better and better in three fundamental areas, which we categorize as Act, Learn and Teach (ALT). These fundamental skills contain many sub-skills, such as setting clear goals, having an open mindset, being vulnerable, building a safe circle, giving and receiving feedback, developing habits, and rewiring your own brain. The Act, Learn and Teach cycle repeats every three months, each time covering new sub-skills and building towards mastery. This dynamic ALTernative approach contrasts with the traditional educational model in which students receive information from teachers and follow a static curriculum.

The following outlines the proposed outcomes, structure and content for the first three-month “meta journey.” (meta = metacognition, learning to learn).

Preliminary Goals. The journey with Circles begins the moment a learner applies to join. They are guided through the Circles Sorting App; a series of questions to profile, identify and refine a goal they want to achieve over their first three months. Diverse examples might include running a marathon, to learning to meditate, or developing a work skill such as leadership, design thinking or coding.

Themes. Circles have a “theme” which is a common area of interest that incorporates each of their preliminary goals. The theme is likely to last many three-month cycles, but the group may decide to change it.

Guide. Each circle is matched with a guide, whose role is as the “facilitator” of the group. The guide may be familiar with the theme or goal of a circle, but is no expert. Guides are responsible for:

  1. Reducing Friction:
    Ensuring that the technology works well for everyone, developing and guiding meeting agendas and process, facilitating scheduling and answering questions. Helping the group get and stay comfortable.
  2. Guiding the meta journey:
    A guide supports the learning process – both as individual learners, and as a group becoming better and better as a “learning circle.” Guides are also responsible for keeping discussions relevant to learner goals and weaving metacognitive skill development into the experience. Guides work as guides in part to build their own mastery in the “ALT skills”.
  3. Ignition:
    Guides light the initial fire and keep it lit. This includes managing engagement, understanding learner motivations and making sure they align with the circle.

The Level One Meta Journey: Structure and Outcomes

The meta journey consists of:

  • MEETINGS: The group and guide meet in the Circles video room bi-weekly for 90 minutes
  • DROPS: Weekly activities and information delivered and completed via a chat platform
  • Other touch points from the guide or Circles team that support the learning experience

The meta journey is designed to build the skills and capabilities of learners to form a learning machine, where their circle is capable of keeping the Act, Learn and Teach cycle in motion, and deepen their learning over time.

The Meta Journey: Content


Learners identify the specific outcome they want to achieve by the end of the initial three months. They also learn the brain science that underpins goal-setting and learning.

Week 1

  • Orientation: 40 minute video call between learners and guide to test the Circles technology and walk through the circle norms (see Orientation process below)
  • DROP: Group introductions: Learners introduce each other using available public info

Week 2

  • MEETING 1: Joy/Pain sharing, present 12 week goal to group (see Agenda below).


Learners build self-awareness through insights into the key skills and character traits associated with a growth mindset and being vulnerable.

Week 3

  • DROP: How the brain works/neuroplasticity. Podcast explaining how brain science relates to learning. Learner from another circle reaches out via email, testifies and offers support.

Week 4

  • DROP: Goal setting activity that supports learners to refine and clarify their goals (visualization exercise leading into SMART goal process).
  • MEETING 2: Goal check in, challenge exploration (see Agenda below).

Week 5

  • DROP: Vulnerability: Brene Brown’s TED talk with accompanying key facts and resources

Week 6

  • MEETING 3: Goal check-in, challenge exploration (see Agenda below).


Group awareness is built as an understanding of group dynamics and the power of peers is gained. Learners begin to teach each other.

Week 7

  • DROP: Storytelling: Send videos of learners storytelling from a previous meeting. Learners self-reflect in online chat.

Week 8

  • MEETING 4: Goal check in, challenge exploration (see Agenda below).

Week 9

  • DROP: Learners are asked to share questions they have about their goal. This is a fun, upbeat activity to encourage reflection and active group learning.

Week 10

  • Learners are sent an email to get them thinking about their next goal and next circle (no call to action)
  • MEETING 5: Goal check-in, challenge exploration (see Agenda below).


Active learning is understood and practiced, and the group knows how to use each other to keep accountable and achieve goals. Learners reflect on their goals, assess, adjust and set new goals.

Week 11

  • DROP: Learners are asked to write, draw or create a self-assessment on their progress, goal and other key skills such as vulnerability and storytelling. They are also asked to provide feedback to their peers.

Week 12

  • DROP: Learners are taken through a new goal setting process to identify, refine and set their goal for the next circle.
  • MEETING 6: Goal closure and reflection, group reflection, present new goals, discuss and choose next theme and confirm meeting time.
  • Guide sends thank-you notes


The orientation is a 40-minute video call in the first week of a circle between a learner and the guide. The guide will set up a few times for the Circles learners to sign up. There might be a few learners in a session. Eventually, we might automate this as an interactive and gamified experience. The primary focus of orientation is to:

  • Ensure the learner has the Circles technology platform set up and working
  • Introduce the Circle norms (expectations)
  • Familiarize learners with process such as meeting agendas
  • Introduce the “learning circle” ALTernative vision

Over 40 minutes, this looks like:


Each meeting (with the exception of a circle’s first meeting) follows the same agenda, facilitated by the guide. Each learner is allocated a week to present their challenge, which the group will then explore in detail, using it as the launch pad for learning.

First Meeting Agenda

Regular Meeting Agenda (Meetings 2-6)