Overview of the First Nations Online Pedagogy Project discussion wheels (2023)

talk wheel

Overview of the First Nations Online Pedagogy Project discussion wheels (1)Talking circles, or circle talks, are a fundamental approach to First Nations pedagogy in action because they provide a model for an educational activity that encourages dialogue, respect, co-creation of learning content, and social discourse. The nuance of subtle energy created by this respectful approach to speaking to others conveys a sense of togetherness and connection that isn't always present with typical classroom communication methods. When everyone has their say, when all voices are respectfully and carefully heard, the learning climate becomes a rich source of information, identity and interaction.

Talking Circles originated with First Nations leaders – the process was used to ensure that all tribal council leaders were heard and that those who spoke were not interrupted. Usually, the boss would initiate the conversation, with the other members responding and sharing their perceptions and opinions on the topic under discussion. The process also provides an excellent model for interaction within the learning environment. It is also very adaptable to any circle of people who need to discuss issues and make decisions together.

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Various selected objects are used by different First Nations peoples to facilitate conversation. Some races use a talking staff, some use a talking feather, while others use a peace pipe, sacred shell, wampum belt, or other chosen item. The main point of using the sacred object is that whoever is holding the object has the right to speak. The circle itself is considered sacred. First Nations peoples observed that the circle is a dominant symbol in nature and has come to represent wholeness, completion, and the cycles of life (including the cycle of human communication). Many discussion groups were also traditionally “opened” with prayer and smoking. Through these reverent actions and observances, a sacred space was created.

Overview of the First Nations Online Pedagogy Project discussion wheels (2)
Example talking stick

general process

  • It's respectful to introduce yourself.
  • It is important that the group of people listen to the speaker respectfully.
  • The person speaking must "speak from the heart."
  • Joint communications must be kept confidential, especially if they are personal.

(Click on the image to enlarge it)

online discussion groups

Online course management systems provide various applications that can be used to apply the conversation wheel process within the virtual learning environment. While presence is an important part of effective discussion groups, the teacher or guide can provide at least a semblance of web presence within the activity.

Some common applications that can be used to facilitate online chat groups are:

  • forums or discussion forums
  • chat rooms
  • Web video and media presentation software
  • Wikis, blogs and magazines
  • social networks

While any of the above apps can be used to organize an online discussion group, there are some important considerations that the teacher or facilitator should keep in mind. To quote David Osborn: (2003)

In his discussion of roundabouts, Baldwin (1994) proposes the use of three principles in relation to power issues: rotational leadership, shared responsibility, and trust in Spirit. She also encourages people to speak with intention, listen carefully, and self-monitor the impact of their contributions. Pranis et al. (2000), in keeping with First Nations tradition, assigns great responsibility to the elder or keeper of the circuit and describes the gatekeeper as the servant of the circuit process. They suggest that gatekeeper qualities include respect for the community, knowledge of the community, reputation for fairness and integrity, understanding of the practices and principles of peacekeeping circles (conversation), ability to facilitate difficult conversations, empathy and respect for others, and humility should include (S 35).

Circles are unique

Discussions and forums are commonly used in online education. The standard format includes a question or statement that prompts the student to comment or answer the question. Often students are encouraged to respond to each other's contributions to the discussion and perhaps add further discussion to continue the dialogue.

The actual process of conducting an online discussion lends itself to the usual discussion method outlined above, which may or may not take place in a respectful and informed manner. Students often do not respond to one another's remarks, or when they do, it may be in a competitive or condescending manner. All too often, discussion posts are written primarily for the professor to read and receive a course grade.

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So how can a discussion (be it in a forum, in a newspaper, in a blog or wiki, etc.) be conducted as a conversation wheel? The first is the issue of respect and 'being in the spotlight', where others read and reflect on what the 'speaker' has communicated before responding and sharing their own perspective.


Organize a round table to address the issue,"My relationship to place and nature".


1. Choose your dialogue medium: blog, forum, wiki and so on.

2. Prepare-ifPOLICIESfor the discussion group. Click on the graphic below to see an example.

3. Prepare aCHARTa talking stick or feather (or other significant symbol or object) to denote the speaker. You can use what we created (see below) if you like.

Overview of the First Nations Online Pedagogy Project discussion wheels (5)
Graphic example for Talking Stick

4. Organize aCIRCUIT DIAGRAMwith all the names of the disciples arranged around it. Each student turns clockwise once. You can download the example below (pdf format) to use if you like. This sample graphic is also available asWortor oneopen officedocument.


1.INTRODUCTIONAs a circle facilitator, present the broad topic to be discussed in the circle and the circle guidelines within your chosen medium (forum, blog, wiki, chat, video, etc.). You can also post a short prayer, blessing, or inspirational quote to set the mood for the circle.

In this case, the introduction could look like this:

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My relationship to the place and the natural world

Humans interact individually and collectively with the natural world around them. Please tell us what nature means to you and how you interact with the geographic place where you live.

2.talking stickPost or email the Talking Stick Chart (or whichever chart you wish to use as an honorable mention) to the first person on your Talking Circle Chart.

3.THE CIRCLE BEGINSThe first person should paste the graphic into the app (if possible - some media don't allow graphic pasting) and then provide their honest account of their experience of the place and the natural world. This first person must send the Talking Stick graphic to the second person in the Talking Circle graphic.

4.THE CIRCLE CONTINUESThe second person must then respond to the first person's collaborative work and then engage in the same process outlined in step 3 above.

5.THE CIRCLE ON ONThe third person would do the same as in step 4, but they can choose which of the first two people they want to address (or they can address both).

6.THE CIRCLE RUNS TO COMPLETIONThis process would continue in the circle until everyone had an opportunity to express themselves within the circle. The circle can be synchronous, where all students engage at the same time, or asynchronous, where each student engages when their turn and at a convenient time.

empfohlene Links

Diabetes Wellbeing: Guide to Native American Conversation Groupsvon Felicia Schanche Hodge et al., American Indian Research and Education Center.

The discussion group as a metaphor and pedagogy of learningvon David A. Cowen und Kathy Adams, Miami University, Association of Leadership Educator's Conference, Lexington, KY, Juli 2002.https://knowledgecirclesca.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/talking-circles-for-learning-and-leadership.pdf

Discussion groups: Connections to the care of our practiceby David Osborn.

(Video) PMP® Certification Full Course - Learn PMP Fundamentals in 12 Hours | PMP® Training Videos | Edureka

Native American Legends - Traditional Talking Stick- from First Nations Traditional history and importance of the talking stick to various First Nations.

The "Talking Stick": Visualize circles of bears.https://visioningbear.org/talking-stick/


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