tips on how
to design a reviewing strategy for experiential learning
progammes. Reviewing = processing / debriefing / reflection
Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips 13.4 ~ ISSN 1465-8046
A free monthly publication from Reviewing Skills Training
ARTips 13.4 Designs for Reviewing: 10 Tips
~ 1 ~ EDITORIAL: Planning to Improvise
~ 2 ~ ARTICLE: Designs for Reviewing: 10 Tips
~ 3 ~ EVENTS: ... including Roger's workshops
~ 4 ~ LAST AND NEXT ISSUE: More on design
~ 5 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips
When I am not writing Active Reviewing Tips I am providing
training workshops around the world on the topics I write about.
EDITORIAL: PLANNING TO IMPROVISE
Have you ever heard (or said) this? ...
'I am responsive and flexible: I don't need to plan or prepare.'
In this issue of Active Reviewing Tips I will show you how you
can both plan and prepare for reviewing (debriefing) in ways that
do not make you any less responsive and flexible.
In fact planning a whole reviewing strategy for a programme can
give you even more scope for responsiveness and improvisation.
Improvised jazz often follows a clear structure but the notes to
be played are decided in the moment. The notes and rhythms can
match, echo or contrast, but if the improvisations are too
predictable, the life goes out of the music.
In facilitation, much the same principles hold true. Create an enabling structure. But participants will sense if you are following a script too closely. And you would surely feel frustrated if responses from participants seemed scripted, shallow and predictable?
We can plan a reviewing strategy without turning facilitation
into a tightly scripted and predictable activity. The best
strategies can give us even more opportunity to respond
creatively - bringing real energy and focus to the process of
review and reflection.
Having no plan at all (winging it) might sometimes work out well.
But more often than not, poor preparation reduces the choices
available both for facilitators and learners - as you and they
slip into a mediocre and predictable default mode.
However much you currently plan your reviewing strategy in
advance, I hope you will find some useful ideas in the article
below about how to do so in ways that help you to make reviewing
a more engaging and significant process.
PS Your feedback will spur me to write more frequently and will steer me towards the kind of articles and writing style that will make you a loyal reader and a global ambassador for Active Reviewing Tips!
~ ARTICLE: DESIGNS FOR REVIEWING: 10 TIPS
[Later articles in this design series focus on the design of
reviewing sessions and on the design of reviewing methods.]
DESIGNS FOR REVIEWING: 10 TIPSThis article is about PROGRAMME DESIGN with a focus on reviewing. It provides 10 practical tips on how to design a reviewing strategy for experiential learning progammes:
1. ENSURE THAT YOUR PROGRAMME DESIGN PROTECTS REVIEW TIME
You may have noticed that whenever a programme is running late it
is usually review time that suffers. The first challenge is to
design a programme in a way that protects this fragile review
time. Do not fall at this first hurdle: if the time allocated for
reviewing gets squeezed out - reviewing will be happening in a
rush or not at all. The usual 'enemy' of review time is the
activities to be reviewed taking longer than planned. So make a
plan that reduces the chances these other parts of the programme
One small change can make a big difference. Instead of scheduling
reviewing to happen straight after an activity, plan to take a
break and start the next session with a review. Such a change
helps to protect review time. This change also means that
participants will be arriving fresh and energised for the review.
This is not always the best choice, but if you are locked into
the normal pattern of scheduling reviewing at the (shrinking) end
of a session, you now have an extra choice: which is to plan
reviewing into the start of the following session.
This design strategy also lends itself to 'Reflection Before
Action' which is described in a separate article at:
2. SCHEDULE YOUR FIRST REVIEW AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Consider the option of starting the programme with a reflective
exercise - which can be playful if you want it to double as an
It is not always necessary to generate a fresh experience before
you can review something. We all have an extraordinary range of
experiences on which we can draw for further reflection and
learning. I try to make an early review a celebration of positive
experiences related to the course objective. Brief Encounters is
a handy way of achieving this. You will need to tailor the
questions to the course objective unless the course happens to be
So you can start a programme with a review, but why would this be
a good idea?
- it demonstrates that review and reflection is a valued part of
the learning process right from the start.
- it saves time because you do not first need to generate an
experience in order to facilitate experiential learning: you are
off to a quick start.
- it serves as a handy example of what reviewing can be (see
3. INCLUDE A PARTICIPATORY DEMONSTRATION OF ACTIVE REVIEWING
Ensure that your programme design includes a section early on in
which active reviewing is explained as being a significant part
of the learning process. Ideal timing for this explanation is
soon after the group have first experienced a fine example of
active reviewing! You could for example, include an explanation
soon after a reviewing activity such as Brief Encounters.
Follow these first three tips and you will have a programme
design that protects review time and you could have participants
experiencing, enjoying and appreciating the value of reviewing
within the first half hour of your programme. Both the programme
structure and the participants are now supporting reviewing. And
you are already way ahead of the competition who have yet to
finish their introductory lecture about experiential learning ;-)
4. CHOOSE THE REVIEWING METHODS BEFORE YOU CHOOSE THE ACTIVITIES
This is (in part) another strategy for protecting review time
because it involves scheduling all the reviews before scheduling
the other features of the programme. This is an alternative to
the common practice of placing reviews in the time gaps left over
when everything else is in place.
This design process may seem illogical if you have yet to try it.
The logic is as follows:
- experiential learning is a combination of 'activity' and
- participants are best served when there is an optimal balance
between 'activity' and 'reflection'
- when activities are the first items to be placed in a programme
design, it is very likely that the balance will be skewed too
much towards activities even at the design stage.
- if review time is less than ideal, the quality of learning
suffers, whereas it is relatively straightforward to find or
devise suitable activities to fit in the time available.
This is not an argument for tipping the balance in the other
direction: it is simply an approach to programme design that is
more likely to result in the optimal balance that you believe
will be most effective.
5. BEGIN WITH THE EXPERIENCE IN MIND
Design is a creative process, so it pays to work with a medium
that lends itself to creative thinking. I like to work with a
stimulating collection of picture postcards.
- From a pool of pictures I ask programme designers to choose
pictures representing participant emotions which they expect or
want to happen at some point during the programme.
- I ask the designers to place their pictures on a time line
which starts before the programme and finishes after the
- I provide sticky labels for people to write labels for any
pictures that do not have a clear enough meaning.
- Once a sequence is agreed, an optional creative step is to ask
whether the sequence would work in reverse. (Often it will and
can lead to some creative breakthroughs in design.)
- I now ask the design team to put cards with names of reviewing
methods at suitable places on the timeline. A method might be
'suitable' because it is a good way of generating, or working
with, the kinds of experiences represented on the nearby
If you are designing a programme for experience-based learning
then it is important at some stage in the planning to look at the
desired (or likely) sequence of emotional experiences. Of course
you will want to look at the desired (or likely) sequence of
learning too. (See next)
6. DESIGN A PROGRESSIVE SEQUENCE OF REVIEW SESSIONS
There are many candidates (models, theories, traditions,
journeys, stories) from which you can create a suitable flow or
sequence in a programme. Relying on just one sequence for design
is unlikely to be sufficient if you are attempting to produce a
holistic learning design, but I will use just one model as an
The Active Reviewing Cycle is a model that arose from my study of
facilitators with good reputations. It represents the kind of
sequence that they generally followed within a single reviewing
session. More recently I have been using this same sequence for
programme design. In other words I am applying the cycle to a
longer time scale.
The first two stages of the cycle are FACTS and FEELINGS. Taken
together these stages typically involve storytelling (stories of
experience). Focusing on facts produces a descriptive account of
what happened and focusing on feelings draws attention to
individual and group feelings experienced during the event being
described. This means that in the early part of a programme I
will mostly be using methods that help learners to tell stories
about experiences. This places experience at the centre of
experiential learning. Paying attention to experience can be a
remarkably effective way of generating a mutually supportive (and
evidence-based) learning climate.
Around mid-way in a programme I will tend to focus on the third
stage: FINDINGS. This stage is represented by the spade symbol
and involves digging deeper into the reasons why things happen.
The review methods at this stage help people to find and discover
new learning from their experiences.
Towards the end of the programme I would have a concentration of
reviewing methods that focus on the FUTURE while still making
strong connections with experiences and learning so far. Some
FUTURE methods also fit well at the beginning of the programme
and immediately before an activity, but if you do too much
'future' work there is a risk that you are neglecting the core
process of reflecting on past and present experience
Single review sessions will generally include at least one
complete reviewing cycle, but over the programme as a whole,
reviewing methods that bring out FACTS and FEELINGS tend to be
used most near the beginning, methods that are good for bringing
out FINDINGS are most useful in the middle, and methods that look
to the FUTURE are most useful towards the end.
There are many other good rationales for sequencing and shaping a
programme, but if you want to see some examples of reviewing
methods matched to the Active Reviewing Cycle see:
7. WORK BACKWARDS FROM THE END, FORWARDS FROM THE START AND OUTWARDS FROM THE MIDDLE
This kind of planning is most easily done with cards and a time
line, and ideally with other people in your planning/design team.
- Ask your planning team which reviewing methods they think will
be most suitable and effective for the participants to achieve
their learning objectives.
- For each proposed reviewing method, write down its name on a
card (one name per card).
- The first card sort involves placing each card into one of
three sets: 'beginning', 'middle' and 'end'. (If you provide
'pre-work' and 'follow-up' create extra sets of cards for
reviewing methods that can be used before and after the
- The next card sort involves arranging each set of cards into a
- If the timeline includes start, finish and break times you can
also do a provisional test to see if you have too many, too few
or about the right number of cards (methods) to fit the schedule.
- With different coloured cards you can now create cards for each
activity or input or any other element that you want to fit into
8. PLACE THE ACTIVITIES AND OTHER PROGRAMME ITEMS IN THE SPACES
A useful experience-focused question to ask is:
'What kind of activity is likely to create the kinds of
experiences that would be good to review using this method?'
Some examples might help:
- if you want to use Action Replay, then the more action there is
in the activity the more suitable it will be for a replay. Action
Replay is a struggle if the activity involved a lot of sitting or
standing around without a lot of movement. Because Action Replay
can be used for subgroups to inform each other about what they
were doing in a separate location, a replay does not need to be
limited to activities in which the whole group was together.
- if you want to use the Missing Person method it works best when
the group can refer to a number of group activities rather than
referring to just one activity. It also fits better after a
challenging activity that highlights the need for better teamwork
- and while there are still a few activities to come in which the
'Missing Person' can help the group focus on better performance.
- if you want to use a group feedback exercise such as Spokes,
then it is important that the activity being reviewed was one in
which everyone was busy doing something that was mostly in the
view of everyone else. In other words, if everyone has had the
chance of being noticed during the activity there is more chance
that others will be able to comment on their performance.
- for paired feedback exercises such as Learning Buddies, Goal
Keepers, Empathy Test or Egoing, the quality of feedback is
better if each pair was working closely together during the
activity. Such activities might be ones where pairs sit together
or walk together or where the group moves in a line and they are
next to each other in the line. This also works for activities where
the group is split into two shifts that alternate between the doing shift
and the observing shift.
The more that you use active reviewing methods the more you will
notice a blurring between what is an activity and what is a
review. I choose to put a positive spin on any such confusion by
referring to it as 'integrated practice'. I feel that I have
reached this point both by working backwards from review
processes and by developing review methods that pay attention to
what participants are doing and experiencing during the review
method itself. I will save examples of integrated practice for a
future issue, because to do so now would spoil the relative
tidiness of the programme design processes that I am outlining in
9. HOLISTIC CHECKS AND BALANCES
When designing a programme in which you want to tap into the
power of holistic and experiential ways of working, there is
probably an infinite array of dimensions that you could consider.
But it is unwise and unnecessary to overload your design effort
with a multitude of holistic considerations. Fortunately many of
these dimensions are present without being designed in to the
process. This is largely because you are working with whole
persons who bring 'everything' with them and who will be
breathing life into your programme design as they participate.
However ... there are some handy design tools and models that can
help you to check that there is sufficient variety and balance in
the opportunities that your programme provides.
9.1 Learning Style Preferences
Over 100 so-called 'learning style preferences' have been
identified by various theorists. Most individual theories include
styles in these 5 areas: doing, sensing, thinking, planning and
integrating. Because any group of people (whatever their job
roles) is likely to include a broad range of learning style
preferences, a review strategy should aim to include all such
preferences - if you want full participation in reviewing
sessions. There is no need to exclude people with an 'activist'
self-description from active reviewing!
9.2 Right Brain, Left Brain
A simpler check is to see whether your overall reviewing strategy
will continually exercise both 'right brains' and 'left brains'.
Does your reviewing strategy regularly include creative,
intuitive and expressive tasks as well as tasks involving logic,
language and analytical thinking? Recent research has shown that
the brain is not nearly as dichotomous as the popular version of
right-left brain theory implies. For example, the best maths is
achieved when both halves of the brain work together. (Source:
http://digbig.com/5bfadk) My belief is that the best reviewing
methods are those that get the whole brain working. Why use half
a brain when you have a whole one?
9.3 The Combination Lock Model
Colin Beard has certainly applied his whole brain to developing
the Combination Lock model which he describes in The Experiential
Learning Toolkit. Unlike the previous two 'models', this one is
designed specifically with experiential learning in mind. The
model works a bit like a fruit machine with a row of 6 variables.
There is no jackpot and there is no preferred combination. It is
more of a creative tool to help a designer of experiential learning
to consider a wider range of possibilities in these six areas:
Belonging, Doing, Sensing, Feeling, Knowing, Being. All of which,
in my view, apply just as much as they do to reviewing processes
as they do to the experiences being reflected upon.
A full review of The Experiential Learning Toolkit is now at:
9.4 There is always another dimension
Any list of holistic 'things' is never-ending, but I feel I must
include one more design perspective because it is so different
from those already mentioned - and because I find it so useful.
It is John Heron's 6 x 3 matrix found in the Complete
Facilitator's Handbook. You may not want to include all 18
combinations, but it is worth paying close attention to the 3
items in the second dimension: Hierarchical, Cooperative and
Autonomous ways of working.
John Heron describes the value of moving around between these
three basic facilitation modes. So one check you can run on the
reviewing methods selected for your programme is to look at the
overall balance of power across the facilitation modes associated
with each reviewing method. Are you keeping tight control at the
right times? Are you giving it all away at the right times? Do
the chosen methods involve 'working with' participants at
None of the four 'holistic checks and balances' listed above will
give you a sequence for your design. But any of these checks will
help to ensure that, overall, your reviewing sessions are varied
and balanced in terms of the model to which you are referring. If
nothing else these sorts of checks and balances will get you out
of a rut you didn't know you were in, and in doing so you may
happen across ways of helping participants get out of theirs.
10. TEST AND EVALUATE
No design is complete until it is tested - so a suitable test
needs to be built into the design. Some people approach this kind
of process by trying to tweak a design until it is as perfect as
can be. As a result of the 'tweaking' approach people tend to
stay close to the original model 'because it has been tested'.
But what about all of the other possible models that haven't been
tested? Could they be even better?
So when evaluating a programme (or a reviewing design) be clear
whether you want a gentle tweak test or something more
revolutionary. If you make bold experiments with a range of very
different designs you will get a much better feel for what really
matters - and you could find yourself saying goodbye to a few
sacred cows. You might even conclude that most effective
programmes are the freshly designed ones.
You will find 42 ideas about programme evaluation at:
Your feedback will spur me to write more frequently and will
steer me towards the kind of articles and writing style that will
make you a loyal reader and a global ambassador for Active
Reviewing Tips! I'm just a click away - and so are your friends and colleagues who may be interested in these ideas about design.
POSTSCRIPT: The second article in this design series is now at:
~ EVENTS: FACILITATION TRAINING (VARIOUS PROVIDERS)
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.
9th November 2011
Essential Facilitation Skills
London, Liverpool & Birmingham (+ Scottish venue on 10th
with ITOL the Institute for Training and Occupational Learning
10th November 2011
Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
'Striving for Excellence in LOtC'
Condover Hall, Shropshire
11th November 2011
METALOG® training tools Workshop
METALOG® training tools are multifaceted interaction activities
and learning projects for indoor and outdoor use
Brecht and Stanislavski - Two Giants
Toynbee Studios, London
Through practical exercises you will explore the different
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their effects on performance. You will finish the day by making
two scenes using the same subject matter but using the techniques
of each practitioner.
16th November 2011
Reviewing / Active Learning
Roger Greenaway with Jacob Lindeblad
Day 1 (16th) is in English. Day 2 (17th) is in Danish.
18th November 2011
Active Reviewing in the Outdoors
with Roger Greenaway
Borwick Hall, Carnforth, Lancashire LA6 1JU
18th November 2011
Lead Practitioner training - Supporting my Teen to Learn
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University of the First Age
24 -26th November, 2011
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Venue: Gilfach Wen, Brechfa Forest, near Carmarthen
Provider: University of Wales Trinity St David
For outdoor educators interested in tasks for "opening up" groups
through the use of creative approaches such as art, film, drama.
Course Leader: Bill Krouwel
Contact: email@example.com or ring on 01267676663
28th November - 2nd December 2011
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David Key & Mary-Jayne Rust
Schumacher College, Devon
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~ PREVIOUS AND NEXT ISSUE OF ACTIVE REVIEWING TIPS
Real Reviewing: Getting Beyond Cliches is now at:
Future issues will continue with the design theme:
- designing active reviewing sessions
- designing active reviewing methods
- sample designs for learning and development
- integrated practice in experiential learning
(when does an activity become a review? when does a review become an activity? examples of integrated practice - and do these challenge or demonstrate experiential learning theory?)
Please let me know what you would like to see in a future
issue of Active Reviewing Tips.
~ About Active Reviewing
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