The best way to study popular education is to experience it both as a facilitator and as a participant. Try it out in a small group of people who share your interest. I was lucky to be part of a working group of teachers and organizers who came together to study popular education and organizing. (Their names are all over this handbook!). Popular educators need to create our own contexts, our own support, our own 'schools' in order to deepen and extend our work. The working group is a tool for turning problem-posing back on the educators, helping us engage issues like context, working conditions, and personal experience. The Working Group on Popular Education and Organizing was a formative experience for me and I sorely miss it.

People interested in using popular education for worker organizing form a small group to study popular education by using it to examine their own lives as educators and organizers.

The full range of potential popular education materials -- see the list of resources at the end for a start -- the goal is to try things out! Meeting at people's homes helps build community and comfort. It may be helpful to look at different types of material -- theory, history, technique -- but I have found that a focus on participatory techniques is helpful when the participants do not have a lot of experience with popular education.

Number of people:
A smaller group can feel more cohesive and intense. On the other hand, personalities play a bigger role. You have to find the right ratio, and you will have to be conscious of the formats you use and how they work when the group is large or small (a go round with fifty people may not be so good).

It may be helpful to plan a set of four or five sessions, then decide whether/how to continue. When to meet can be a problem, in our experience, Sunday brunch meetings were the best.

The key is to study popular education the way you hope to practice it: collaboratively, democratically, creatively, starting from the experiences and interests of the participants.

It may be useful to have people take turns planning and facilitating the sessions, working in pairs.

Watch for:

[Your variant here! I want to learn from others.]


A few of my co-workers at the Consortium for Worker Education, and a few workers center activists, formed a working group to learn more about popular education, and explore the connections between popular education and worker organizing.

The participants varied, but the core group included six adult education teachers (three full-time, two part-time, one student-teacher who was also a garment worker), a workers center organizer, and a workers center volunteer. Most of us were union members or had union experience.

We met every two weeks or so, on Sunday mornings, at one of our apartments. Each session was planned and facilitated by two participants who volunteered at the previous meeting. (There was also good food and often a walk in the park afterwards.)

Our only principle was that we would try to learn popular education by doing it. So, we tried to follow a process of dialogue and analysis, starting with our exeriences as educators and organizers, using participatory tools.

The discussions in the working group may lead you to want to explore other means of support and dialogue. In our case, several of the participants went on to keep "dialogue journals" with another participant. We used the dialogue journals to share our teaching experiences and reflections on the day to day reality of popular education. (The dialogue journal I kept with Charley MacMartin for nearly two years was very useful to me, as I changed teaching jobs and tried to sort out my practice.)