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Reviewing When Short of Time

Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips 11.3 ~ ISSN 1465-8046
A free monthly publication from Reviewing Skills Training

ARTips 11.3   Reviewing When Short of Time


The previous issue 'Reviewing for Starters' is now at: <http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/11_2.htm>


When things are running late, it is often the time reserved for
a review that is most vulnerable. Inevitably, or so it seems,
review time shrinks or even vanishes.

Do you recognise this situation? Would you own up to this
happening in your practice? If so, then make time for reading
this month's article on 'reviewing when short of time'.

Whenever I receive requests for 'quick review techniques' I
wonder whether I should really be offering advice about how to
prevent the incredible shrinking review syndrome in the first
place. So in this issue you will discover advice on how to
protect review time, as well as on how to review when you find
that despite your best efforts you are, yet again, short of time.

And if you have an INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BUDGET for staff training
but want them to develop their reviewing skills, here are two
ways you can make it go further.

The first is a special seasonal offer (in December and January)
for UK providers of outdoor education and training: see

The second offer applies to anyone with access to a video camera
and editing skills. See 'How to save money with a camera' in
section 3 below.

If you prefer things to be free, then scroll down to the final
instalment of Dynamic Debriefing (section 5) where you will
find free sample pages of an ebook I am producing on 'How to
Engage Students in Learning'. Your feedback is welcome.
Roger Greenaway

PS UK customers of my bookshop, please note the free delivery
offer all the way to Jan 1st 2010.


Should you be shrinking activities or reviews?

Are you under pressure to achieve more in less time? Do your
clients expect the outcomes you once offered in 5 day programmes
to be achieved in only 1 or 2 days? Do you find yourself speaking
quickly to fit more in? Are you quicker to fill in silences and
quicker to explain things in your own words when participants are
slow to come up with 'the right answer'?

Would it not be wonderful if we could slow things down -
providing time for real reflection, providing time for discovery
learning, exploration and experiment? (all features of
experiential learning)

Even now I feel in a rush, because this newsletter promises
'tips' and I am wondering how long I can try your patience with a
thoughtful introduction. Or are you already wanting to fast
forward with the scroll bar?

So I'll come to the point quickly ... but not too quickly.

The requests I receive for ideas for 'quick reviews' often come
from the more general need to speed things up and achieve more in
less time. So I could respond to requests for quick review ideas
by offering an activity-shrinking service that reduces activity
time and protects review time. Or I could make reviewing so
active and stimulating that the distinction between 'activity'
and 'review' starts to disappear.

So when you next find that you are short of time for the kind of
review that you would like to offer, I'd advise two courses of
action (both of them):

1) Go for the short term fix of finding a suitably quick review
method (see below for 10 ideas and a link to 25 more)

2) Go for the long term fix of redesigning your programmes in a
way that shows a full understanding of (and commitment to) the
principles of experiential learning. (see below for 10 strategies
that may help you achieve this)

Experiential learning takes time. Speed is not its selling point.
And talking of selling points - you can charge more for
experiential learning programmes than you can for activities-only

If your reviewing is too quick, the value of what you are
providing, starts to plummet. Few clients would be dumb enough to
accept that a 5 minute review entitles you to double your prices
compared to the 'activities-only' provider down the road.

Sometimes pressure for quick reviews (or even no reviews!) comes
from participants. But be wary that this pressure does not create
a vicious cycle in which you are unable to persuade participants
of the value of reviewing because you do not negotiate enough
time in which to provide a high quality review.

Do not persuade yourself that all participants love activities
and hate reviews - because you would be wrong. It was my own
evaluations of experiential learning programmes that showed me
just how wrong it is to believe that reviewing is unpopular with

In these evaluations, mixed ability groups of teenagers from
across the social spectrum regularly chose reviewing as the
highest point of their programmes. It was in reviews that they
felt listened to, respected, supported, treated as responsible
people, valued by peers, etc. These were not quick reviews - and
I think these young people would have complained if we had
reduced review time.

Those programmes did last 7-10 days (luxury!). The challenge for
programme designers is to retain the right kind of balance so
that participants value review as much as they value activity.
The strategies and methods below will help you to achieve such a
balance in your own work - whatever the age or motivation of the
people you work with.


1. Select one moment that captures a way of doing, working or
learning that you admire. Describe it or re-stage it for a FREEZE
FRAME 'photo'.

2. Make NOTES - including at least one question - to explore at
the next review session.

3. Record a TWEET (20 words or 140 characters max) ready for
sending to (eg) your sponsor.

4. WALK'N'TALK with a partner on your way to the next location
where you will be asked to issue a 'joint statement' about (eg)
your learning.

5. (In small groups) prepare interview questions as if you are
REPORTERS from a (specified) newspaper. Choose a spokesperson (or
two) to answer questions from other groups.

6. (In small groups) write a HEADLINE and opening paragraph for a
(specified) newspaper about the last activity. This can follow
the interviews (see above) or can be a free-standing review

7. Wander round these DISPLAYS from your previous reviews (with a
partner) and find (two) points that connect with the activity
just finished and add one new observation.

8. Find a PICTURE or OBJECT that represents a positive quality
that you saw in the group (or in yourself). Place the
picture/object in the centre of the circle. Explain it. Invite
others to move in a little or a lot (or an in between amount)
depending on how much they noticed the same quality in the group
(or in themselves).

9. FISHBOWL: Half the group sit in an inner circle and use an
alternating round (Fortunately ..., Unfortunately ... or:
Predictably..., Surprisingly) to tell the story of the last
activity or of a particular incident within it. Inner and outer
circles swap. The new inner circle use a future-looking
alternating round (Let's / Let's not or: I will / I won't)

- 1 What was supposed to happen?
- 2 What actually happened?
- 3 Why were there differences?
- 4 What can we learn from this?
(A review routine adopted by the US Army)


Selectively pay attention to just one theme, question or person
in each (short) review. If you plan this well, you can achieve
breadth and balance over a series of reviews even though each
individual review is narrow and unbalanced. Optionally, finish by
asking the group ''What are we not paying attention to that we
should pay special attention to next time''?

Design a learning diary to accompany your programme. Some pages
can be for completion by others for feedback. Some pages can be
for reviewing with others. Other pages can be designed for
showing to stakeholders after the programme. It clearly takes
time to complete diaries, but individuals can do this in spare
time during a programme.

For example: buddies talk in pairs finding one thing they agree
about and one thing they disagree about - in relation to the last
activity. Share in the group if time allows, or postpone sharing
to the next review session. To keep sharing brief, ensure that
you ask for brief statements (as in the above example).

Instead of having a rushed review, finish the session early
and ask the group to turn up the same number of minutes early for
the next session - when you will start with a review. Prime the
review before the break if you want to get off to a quick start
after the break. (1 minute: for announcing/negotiating the
restart time and priming the review)

5. INTERRUPT THE ACTIVITY for sharpening, deepening, or widening.
Build reviewing into the activity so that you never run out of
time for review! For example, pause the action to enhance here
and now awareness, or to provide positive feedback to each
individual, or to help participants make sense of their
experiences or discover their wider significance.

Establish review tasks at the beginning of a programme. Everyone
can have identical tasks, or each person can have a unique task -
possibly tailored to their needs, goals or interests. Everyone is
responsible for finding or making time to complete their tasks by
an agreed deadline within the programme. (For assisting transfer,
projects can be continued after the programme. The review project
becomes a transfer project.)

Ask each person at the beginning of a programme to write down
a description of the programme as if it has already happened and
was really worthwhile and resulted in desired changes after the
programme. Every so often, ask participants to review and record
what they have done or said in order to make their optimistic
predictions come true.

Before an activity, ask everyone to write down 3 goals (e.g. one
related to group achievement, one related to personal performance
and one related to a personal learning objective). At review time
ask everyone to award themselves a score and explain to a partner
why they deserved the score they gave themselves.

Make different sets of review cards, each colour coded or clearly
marked so that you can readily choose a suitable set of review
cards to feed into a reviewing system - whether individual, in
pairs, small groups or the whole group. The cards can have review
questions, or half sentences, feedback statements or review

This could be a cartoon tapestry, a graffiti wall, a web log or a
photo or video project. The concept is that the group create a
record of events on the programme that can be regularly added to
and developed throughout the programme. This can save time in
three ways:
- if participants are motivated to contribute to the record
outside programmed time.
- if such a project can be substituted for another activity in
the programme (because it is itself a group exercise requiring
all of the usual skills in any group project).
- if participants are jogged into reflective mode whenever they
look at the visual history on display.

Some of these strategies can be carried out without preparation.
Others need considerable preparation. Do let me know if you would
like help or advice in creating any of these time-saving
reviewing resources. The help and advice is free - to start with.
I will give you advance warning if my 'help' becomes billable at
any stage. Help is just an email away: roger@reviewing.co.uk

The above article picks up where my 2001 article on Quick Reviews
left off. So you may also wish to refer to Quick Reviews in
which you will find 5 reviewing methods for each of these time
frames: reviewing in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 minutes.
The 10 best tips from this 2001 article are described in Section

Last month's Reviewing for Starters' features strategies that
awaken reflective thinking at the start of an activity. If
successful this could reduce the time needed for reviewing after
the activity. On the other hand, once you engage people in
satisfying review processes, they may want more reviewing, not


The Active Learning Manual is a pilot project using video to
demonstrate active learning methods. You can view my introductory
video and three one minute videos
- Action Replay
- Moving Stones
- Talking Knot
at <http://www.activelearningmanual.com>

If you are a client (or potential client) who has access to the
equipment and skills to take and edit 2 minute videos of a
similar style and quality to the pilot videos at

For a limited period I am now offering a third day's training
free in exchange for two minute videos that I can add to the
Active Learning Manual collection. To discuss this, or other
possibilities, please write to me at: roger@reviewing.co.uk


12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS SALE NOW ON: <http://digbig.com/5barap>
Roger's Active Learning Bookshop has raised over £1,350 for Save
the Children since January 2006. Thank you for your purchases.

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Do ALL your Amazon shopping (not just books) via
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This is the last of a series of extracts from my chapter on
Dynamic Debriefing that was published in Mel Silberman's
'Handbook of Experiential Learning'.

Since writing Dynamic Debriefing, I have produced a more detailed
description of Horseshoe: it is a 2 page description of the latest refinement of this method with examples of 12 sample topics


Recommended use:
for exposing and discussing different views

One long rope (or other marker) in the shape of a horseshoe. The
rope should be about twice as long as the length of the group
when standing shoulder to shoulder.

This debriefing method is a variation of a scaling technique that
goes under many names including: 'spectrum', 'line-up',
'positions' and 'silent statements'. The main difference is that
the 'horseshoe' is a curved line. In this method, you simply
define the two ends of the spectrum and ask everyone to stand at
a point on the line that represents their point of view. The
benefit of the horseshoe shape is that everyone is more likely to
be in eye contact with each other - which makes facilitating
whole group discussion much easier.

One end represents ''We worked well as a team during that
exercise''; the other end represents ''We did not work well as a
team during that exercise''. Everyone chooses their point on the
line and then talks to one or two neighbours (who are likely to
have a similar point of view). Ask everyone to notice where
individuals are standing as well as at the overall pattern of
distribution. Ask ''Any surprises? Any comments? Any questions?''
Given a natural tendency to focus on the two extremes, ensure
that attention is also paid to other positions. Encourage
participants to move as and when their views change and invite
them to explain why they are moving. You can also ask stationary
participants why they are not moving. Facilitate discussion for
as long as it is productive.

Choose different points in time. For example: ''How would you
each have rated this team before the exercise started?'' ''What
was the quality of teamwork like up to the end of the initial
planning?'' ... ''What is your personal prediction for the
quality of teamwork in the next exercise?''

Horseshoe is a classic example of the ‘1-2-Many’ sequence
described earlier in this chapter: ‘1’ is the ‘silent statement’
when choosing a point on the line; ‘2’ is the conversation with a
neighbour; ‘Many’ is the facilitated discussion. Whenever you
feel tempted to ask for a show of hands during a debrief, try
Horseshoe instead. It is more accurate because it allows a scaled
response. It is also more participatory and more fun.


Recommended use:
to allow participants to see and experience two or more sides of
an issue.

Two semicircles of chairs facing each other.

The simplest form of a Turntable Discussion is to set up two
teams facing each other in a semicircle. This is how I would
brief a Turntable discussion about teamwork:

''When you are sitting in this semicircle you have a positive
view about your performance and progress as a team; but when you
are sitting in the opposite seats you may only express negative
views about (for example) performance problems and slow progress
as a team. So that you don’t get stuck in one position, and to
give you the chance of achieving a balanced view, you will be
spending roughly equal time on both sides of the argument. In
this exercise, you may find yourselves saying things you don’t
really believe. That’s OK. You are allowed to adopt an attitude
that is not your own, but you should not make up untrue facts to
support your argument, and you should generally promote your own
side’s view rather than seeking to undermine the other side’s
view. Every minute or so I will stand up as a signal for you to
move two places to your left.''

To assist with the transfer of learning near the end of a
training programme, have one semicircle of pessimistic seats (for
expressing pessimistic views about being able to transfer their
learning) arranged opposite a semicircle of optimistic seats.

Rearrange the furniture (and participants) to mark the end of
Turntable - otherwise people can get ‘stuck’ in their last
position, which is not where you want to end an exercise about
helping people to appreciate other points of view!

Other Variations:
The ideal group size for Turntable is 10 - for a ‘five-a-side’
discussion. For a group of 20, you can create two groups of 10 to
operate independently, or have an outer circle of ‘listening
chairs’ included in the rotation. A better way of including more
numbers is if you discuss a topic in which a third view is worth
exploring. If fact, three and four way discussions are generally
of a higher quality than two way discussions. A third side can
bring in lateral thinking to unlock the confrontation, and a
fourth side can be an opportunity for practising facilitation
skills. If there are mobility problems in a group, you can pass
round coloured hats, signs or ropes, with each colour
representing a different side. But moving round in a circle has
more impact.

Moving always has more impact! Minds move when bodies move.

That was the last of the instalments from 'Dynamic Debriefing' -
a chapter I wrote for Mel Silberman's 'Handbook of Experiential
Learning'. Previous instalments were:

1: What is Dynamic Debriefing? in ARTips 9.1
2  The Role of the Facilitator in ARTips 9.2
3. Models of Debriefing in ARTips 9.3
4. The Experience of Debriefing in ARTips 9.4
5. The Sequencing in Debriefing in ARTips 10.1
6. Action Replay in ARTips 10.2
7. Objective Line (Back to the Future) in ARTips 11.1
8. Missing Person and Metaphor Maps in ARTips 11.2

All are indexed at:


If you are a provider of facilitation training, please send me
the details if you would like the details included in future
issues of Active Reviewing Tips.

Reviewing Techniques for outdoor educators and trainers
These 1 day workshops are provided by Roger Greenaway and hosted
by the Southern Region of the Institute for Outdoor Learning
Broadstone Warren
Tuesday 23rd February 2010
Wednesday 24th February 2010

facilitatethis! invites you to take part in ...
Advanced Facilitation Skills
Harrogate, England
9-10 March 2010

a chance to add still more depth and breadth to your facilitation
competency with this 2 day programme designed to dig, stretch and
build on your skills and understanding of these core skills
through a mixed programme of core input, work sessions,
profiling, case studies, challenge in the great outdoors (with
our partners Log Heights), peer review and facilitated sessions.

Annual Festival of Outdoor Learning
Sharing best practice
Castleton, Derbyshire, England
13-14 March 2010

Building on the success of previous years, we are planning
another full schedule of great workshops at our Hollowford Centre
in Castleton

Festival Pricing NO INCREASE FOR 2010 £50 for the Saturday (inc.
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overnight B&B at £16 per night (all including vat) Discounts are
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For more info call 01433 620377 or email

Nick Eve's
The Facilitator's Development Programme
Kington, Herefordshire, England
16-19 March 2010

Footprint Consulting invites you to take part in...
Natural Change Facilitators’ Course
Doune Bay Lodge, Knoydart, Scotland
19-24 April 2010

Natural Change is an experiential programme designed to engage
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This course is a professional development programme for those
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It is the first course of its kind in the UK, and is being run to
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http://digbig.com/5baqyr [takes you to a pdf with course info]

14th Experiential Education Europe Conference Denmark 2010
Annual meeting of experiential educators and trainers
PRE-CONFERENCE: 26-28 April 2010
CONFERENCE: 29 April - 3 May 2010

These unique occasions are well worth tracking down and
experiencing. 'Meeting' is an understatement.


Taking Learning Outdoors! Active experiential learning
22nd-28th May 2010
Schilpario, Italy
In-service training course
Course description:
http://digbig.com/5barfc (Comenius database)
and here:

Email: info@adventurascotland.co.uk

If you would like to host an open event or arrange for an in-
house customised trainer-training programme please get in touch.
Write to: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>


Here is a selection of 10 tips from my article on Quick Reviews.

''Choose three separate words (not a phrase) that describe what
you experienced during the activity.'' Allow 30 seconds thinking
time, then share in a round. This is usually much quicker than
doing sentence completion in rounds. And it often happens to be
an example of ''less is more'' - a lot can be communicated in
just three words (after a bit of thinking time).

''10 good things about you as a group during the activity.''
Encourage comments from within the group, but throw in some
yourself. Go beyond 10 if you can (''10 more good things'') -
mainly because the first few comments (however valid they are)
tend to be vague and clichéd. With this method, quantity brings
out quality because comments tend to get more specific. End by
asking what they will carry forward to the next activity.

Snapshots or short video clips of moments that participants want
to remember (e.g. fun, success, improvements, surprises,
discoveries, insights). If these moments are caught on camera and
you can provide instant replays - go ahead. But I much prefer
asking people to recreate these moments AS IF they had been
caught on camera.

''2 good things about each person during the activity.''
Encourage comments from within the group, but ensure you have
positive comments ready to give to each person in case anyone
receives little or no feedback. Positive feedback boosts
self-confidence. And by highlighting examples of positive
behaviour, you increase the chances that participants will learn
from each other's examples.

This is an alternating round in which the group tell the story of
the last activity, taking it in turns to say just one sentence
beginning with 'Fortunately ...' or 'Unfortunately...'. Go round
the circle one at a time. Allow passing. Depending on the pair of
sentence beginnings you choose this can help to create a balanced
view of what happened. This is especially useful when a group
seems over-confident or under-confident.

Use 'Alternating Rounds' to investigate questions such as:
''How was this like/unlike the last activity?''
''In what ways did you perform better/worse as a team compared to
the last activity?''
To develop a positive view, ask:
''In what ways did your performance in this activity show that
you have learned something useful from the last one?''

Each participant sketches a personal storyline on an A5 card
showing their ups and downs during the activity. Participants
hold on to their storylines while walking around looking for
differences, similarities and surprises. Encourage participants
to question each other about what caused their ups and downs.

Individuals or pairs have a list of symbolic objects (or picture
postcards) to find and share with the group. Examples:
* Something that reminds me of a high point.
* Something that represents how I am in this group.
* Something that represents what is missing in this group or a
goal that I would like us to set ourselves.
* A symbolic present for the person on my left in the circle.
* Something that represents an opportunity I would like to have
in this group.

Participants lie down with their eyes closed while you talk
through the activity with suitable pauses that give them time to
reflect on their own thoughts and feelings. After 5-10 minutes,
end with an opportunity for everyone to speak to each other one-
to-one on a theme such as thanks, appreciation, or encouragement.

If you find that you are always short of time for reviewing, step
back and work out why. The usual reason why people run out of
time for reviewing is that it comes at the end of a session. So
consider ending a session with a quick review, and starting the
next session with a longer review.

For all 25 ideas from 'Quick Reviews' see:


I recently provided a half day workshop on the theme of
'Reviewing for Starters' - which you may remember was the topic
of the main article in last month's Active Reviewing Tips.

I was asked 'How is this different from Frontloading?'

Now my understanding of 'frontloading' is that it is a kind of
turbo-charged briefing technique in which participants' thoughts
are carefully channelled in one direction towards the desired
outcome. Yes, there are a range of different frontloading
techniques (some more 'shaping' than others) but the general idea
is that the meaning of the exercise is declared at the outset
rather than being discovered along the way.

When training people in specific skills, 'frontloading' can
helpfully help to keep things on track. But in developmental
activities which are more exploratory or adventurous in nature,
no-one really knows in advance what will happen or what will be
most significant. In my view, these more open activities are less
suited to frontloading.

So when I was asked 'How is this different from Frontloading?' I
suggested that 'Reviewing for Starters' could have been called
'Backloading'. This is because all of the starter techniques that
I described involve looking backwards and 'loading up' whatever
skills, strengths, resources might be useful for the next
activity. OK, you have to look to the front and to the back, but
the emphasis in all of the 'starter' methods that I described was
on thinking about what you want to take from the past into the

So 'Backloading' it is.

'Backloading' has already been adopted by the removal business in
Australia. It is about trucks not going back empty. It fits.
'Backloading' now also means not going empty into the next
training exercise - and filling up with skills and resources that
you already have.

If you missed or accidentally deleted 'Reviewing for Starters'
you can now get a copy at:
where you will also find a link to a pdf version of the main


What would make you think of a future issue as 'Reviewing for
Me'? or 'Reviewing for the People I Work With' or 'Reviewing the
Kinds of Activities I Use' or 'Reviewing to Achieve These Goals'?

Your answer will help me to extend the 'Reviewing For _' series
by writing for readers just like you!

Topics I am considering for future issues include:
  • Reviewing for different ages
  • Reviewing for different outcomes (using the same activities)
  • Reviewing for teachers and lecturers
  • Reviewing for consultants
  • Reviewing one-to-one
  • The art of improvising
  • Programme design with reviewing in mind
  • Reviewing as a takeaway skill for participants
Please send your suggestions (or votes) to:

~ 10 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips

EDITOR: Dr. Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
9 Drummond Place Lane STIRLING Scotland UK FK8 2JF
Feedback, recommendations, questions: roger@reviewing.co.uk
phone (UK office hours): +44 1786 450968

The Guide to Active Reviewing is at http://reviewing.co.uk
'One of the best training sites I've ever seen' Training Journal

COPYRIGHT: Roger Greenaway  Reviewing Skills Training

If you liked Reviewing When Short of Time (or are still in search of an answer to your question) you might also want to take a look at these earlier issues: Economical Reviewing and Quick Reviews

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