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Straightening out circle time;Research update

Reva Klein on the latest findings

Circle time in British schools is unfocused compared to practices in other countries. Although this activity is becoming increasingly popular in schools here, there is no common view of what it is for, according to a report from Warwick University. It adds that this makes it hard to provide appropriate training or identify good practice.

In America, Italy, Scandinavia and Holland clear methodologies have been developed based on psychological and pedagogic theories. In America practitioners are offered guidance, including how to develop self-awareness, confidence and social interaction at specific ages. It is a progressive programme with specific outcomes.

The Italians have devised a systematic approach based on small groups which includes teacher effectiveness techniques to improve relations between pupils and teachers and heighten children's self-awareness.

On the other hand, in Britain there is little, if any, reference to theory underpinning practice. The practice itself focuses more on behaviour management than on developing communication and cognitive skills and there is no notion of progression in the way it is delivered. It continues in the same vein year after year.

The author of the report strongly advises the creation of a solid research base on circle time, leading to a precise definition of what it should and shouldn't contain.

Getting Round to Clarity: What do we mean by circle time? by Peter Lang, Institute of Education, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL.

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