Jul 13, 2023

Circles of Reflection: An Interview with the Authors

Logos for Native Education Collaborative and Circles of Reflection

By Mandy Smoker Broaddus and Amy Bitterman


National Comprehensive Center’s Native Education Collaborative is excited to present, Circles of Reflection: A Toolkit for SEAs. Available as an online guide with step-by-step instructions, state education agencies (SEAs) can now access the great content, tips, and resources in one convenient location. To share more about the process and this new Toolkit, authors Amy Bitterman and Mandy Smoker Broaddus answer questions and expand on Circle of Reflection’s opportunities and flexibility for state education agencies.


What is Circles of Reflection?

Circles of Reflection is an opportunity for SEAs to lead with equity and to affect systemic transformation by giving invested groups the opportunity to communicate, collaborate, and identify opportunities for improvement in state-wide Native education. Circles of Reflection engages SEAs, Tribal education departments (TEDs), and local education agencies (LEAs) in rich, reflective discussions and strategic planning to provide high-quality, motivating educational experiences that improve Native students’ educational attainment. It is a culturally responsive, interactive, and easy-to-use process. 


What is included in the new Circles of Reflection: A Toolkit for SEAs, and how is it different from the original guide?

This user-friendly, web-based version includes customizable supporting materials, including worksheets, a Facilitation Guide for each Circle, agendas, slide decks, and more. We hope that this new version will reach a broader audience who would like to use part—or all of the process—more independently to support collaboration efforts.


Is it possible to receive technical assistance for Circles of Reflection? What would that look like?

Yes! Through the Comprehensive Center Network of Regional Comprehensive Centers and the National Comprehensive Center, experts are available to provide an orientation to the toolkit or, if needed, support the entire process as a facilitator to guide participants through the planning and implementation.


We’re interested in doing Circles of Reflection in our state. What is the best way to encourage districts and Tribes to participate?

You can share with districts and Tribes that Circles of Reflection can be used as a tool for achieving meaningful Tribal consultation. Engaging in this process demonstrates a commitment to the advancement of Tribes’ roles in the lives of their youngest citizens, opens new levels of important communication, and advances transparency and accountability of state- and district-level efforts.

Can Circles of Reflection be used at the district level?

Yes, it can be used at the district level. Participants can be expanded to include parents/caregivers, students, community members, local youth serving organizations, etc. All the materials can be customized to reflect the education agency that is engaging in the work.


How does Circles of Reflection improve outcomes for Native students?

Tribes enhance students’ overall educational progress through bonds and support that connect and strengthen their communities and citizenry. The collaboration through Circles of Reflection supports Tribal engagement and strengthens relationships between educational agencies.


What happens after Circles of Reflection?

Hopefully, participants feel that they have established new relationships and continue meeting and collaborating….and they implement the 90-day action plans they developed in the Third Circle.