~ 1 ~ EDITORIAL: Reviewing in Twos
~ 2 ~ EVENTS: Active
Workshops with Roger Greenaway
~ 3 ~ ARTICLE: Reviewing
~ 4 ~ THE OTHER
NEWSLETTER: Rebranding Boredom
~ 5 ~ ARCHIVE: Reviewing
~ 6 ~ PREVIOUS ISSUE and
~ 7 ~ About Active
1 ~ EDITORIAL: Reviewing in Twos
So many of us work in groups that Active Reviewing Tips is usually
about working in groups. This issue takes a break from the usual focus
and looks at what you can achieve (and how) when you set up
'Reflection in Pairs' - which would also be a suitable title for this
When you reach the end of the full article you might never again find
yourself saying "Find a partner and talk about ..." because you will
have discovered that there are many better ways of setting up Reviewing in Twos.
There has been a long gap since publishing the last issue on Learning
from Triumphs and Disasters. During this period my writing
time has been spent co-writing a book chapter (which you will hear
about when the book is published), making progress on my new handbook
and writing an article on Reviewing
for Wellbeing which was published in Horizons. My wellbeing
article should be of special interest to school teachers and outdoor
educators. It also lays a solid foundation for reviewing with all ages.
And talking of solid foundations, if you have any colleagues who are
hooked on the wisdom contained in 140 character tweets or quote sites,
please let them know that Active Reviewing Tips has substance and
practical value and is worth subscribing to (details at the end).
Active Reviewing Tips
free newsletter from Roger Greenaway that
will help you to re-charge your reviewing and facilitation skills.
- a practical feature on reviewing
- links to sites about active
- tips, comments and ideas from
- what's new in the Guide to Active
Reviewing at http://reviewing.co.uk
Maximum frequency: monthly. Average frequency: quarterly.
"16 years of promoting better
learning experiences without chalk, flipcharts or marker pens."
I welcome requests for topics you would like to see included
in Active Reviewing
Tips, any questions you would like to see answered in a FAQ, and
enquiries about trainer-training workshops (open or
just do it - actively review it!
~ 2 ~ EVENTS: Active Reviewing
Workshops with Roger Greenaway
Skills and Methods for Outdoor Educators
Pixies Holt Outdoor Learning Centre, Dartmoor
Facilitated by Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
and share this pdf
Transfer Learning and Give Your Training Lasting Impact
Facilitated by Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
Hosted by TrainingMasters
Course description and booking details: in Romanian
Course description in
am travelling via Hong
Kong on my way to Macau
and I would welcome
invitations to provide training workshops in or near Hong Kong during
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In-house training for Don Boscoe Youth Village, Macau
The above information is copied from
Calendar of Reviewing Skills Training Workshops
where you will find the most up to date list of open/public workshops
provided by Roger Greenaway.
other newsletter: the Experiential-CPD Calendar
The Experiential-CPD Calendar lists 'trainer-training' and
from several UK
providers. The events listed here are of interest to
facilitators who work indoors or outdoors. The Experiential-CPD
features a 'Thought for the Month' about experiential
learning from the editors or from readers.
~ 3 ~
ARTICLE: Reviewing in Twos
Reviewing in Twos
Roger Greenaway, Reviewing
How does the option of reflecting with a partner best fit into an
overall strategy for facilitating learning from experience? When is
reflection best carried out alone, with a partner or in a group? What
are the best ways of combining these options?
article will help you to facilitate effective paired learning. The
context is "reviewing" – you are asking pairs to reflect on their
experiences and you are providing methods that will engage them fully
in the learning process.
In twos, reviewing can take place with a coach, a supervisor, manager,
partner, friend, relation ... or even with a stranger. Much of our
day-to-day reflection, whether formal or informal, is either on our own
or with just one other person. In fact, reviewing with one other person
can seem like such a normal everyday occurrence that we may well think
of it simply as a conversation rather than as a "review". The
term "reviewing" (like "debriefing") tends to be associated with what
happens in facilitated groups.
Moving a paired learning conversation into a group setting does not
necessarily make it any more valuable, so let's look at what might be
gained and lost when moving from a paired review to a group review ...
benefits that come from reviewing in twos are not
guaranteed: some pairs may just not "click"
with each other or may simply wander away from the briefing they have
been given. The "benefits" listed below might therefore be
more accurately described as "opportunities afforded by
reviewing in twos":
a group of 10 each person gets attention for 10% of the time
available - if the time is shared equally. Whereas in a group of two
people, equal time-sharing gives each person 50% of the time
is easier to sustain reflection on individual experiences when
talking with just one other person. In a group there are so many
other interesting things to talk about that time for reflecting
on experience can easily get squeezed out out by other kinds of
in one person feels safer than
confiding in a whole group - whatever ground rules have been agreed
in the group or however supportive the group might be.
one-to-one conversations people tend to give a less selective and
more honest account of what happened. It feels more OK to elaborate
in a pair than in the whole group.
twos people can more quickly experience a sense of belonging,
acceptance, empathy, mutual understanding, support, friendship, being
valued and respected. It takes longer to experience such things at a
group level - however effective your favourite energiser or group
reviewing technique happens to be!
of these benefits of reviewing in twos can be seen in sharper relief
if contrasted with the kinds of "editing" that take place
in the larger group: in whole group reviews participants tend to be
want to appear greedy by taking up more than what
they see as
their "fair share" of time; or some people may
simply feel that what they might say to one other person is just not
important enough to say in a group.
for reviewing in twos
are some choices you cannot avoid when setting up reviewing in twos -
so it is worth thinking them through rather than making these choices
on automatic or by default:
will partners be chosen?
your purpose is to encourage lots of fairly brief conversations, each
person simply pairs up with anyone from the shrinking pool of people
they have yet to pair up with during the exercise. But if you are
setting up something like a learning buddy system that is to last for
some time (and even beyond the course) then it makes sense to ensure
that pairs are well matched, are committed to supporting each other
and know how to do so. It takes time to set this up well. By making
the first paired review "a trial session" participants are
less likely to get stuck in a pairing that isn't working well.
long will participants stay with the same reviewing partner?
your purpose is to establish a long-term learning partnership (as in
the example above) the benefits of frequent changes usually outweigh
the disadvantages. If people stay in the same reviewing pairs all the
time, there is a risk that some pairs will be stuck in a low
functioning partnership. It is in no-one's interest to sustain
unproductive pairings – so ask participants to find a new partner
each time you ask them to review in twos. This strategy is a kind of
safety net that rescues people from unrewarding partnerships.
Expressed more positively: regularly changing reviewing partners
increases the chances that most of the time everyone has a good
experience of reviewing in pairs.
is the source of the experience about which you are asking people to
experiences being reflected upon can come from many sources. These
on an input such as a presentation, performance or
on group experiences in which the pair have both
on a paired task that the pair have just conducted
on one person's performance in a group activity
that was observed by the other
on one person's experiences – not necessarily
witnessed by the other (For example, something that happened at work or
in the community.)
on their paired review
of paired reviewing methods suited to each of these situations follow
roles can the listening partner take?
ending up with an 'unhelpful' listener can be reduced by providing
clear briefings and by providing an easy way for the 'speaker' to
change the rules or opt out if they find the process is not working
well. Here are some potentially helpful roles that the 'other person'
can play when reviewing in pairs:
just listens - giving the 'reflector' the opportunity to think aloud
BOARD: listens and responds to any questions the reflector may ask
repeats key phrases, summarises, asks for clarification
notices, empathises, supports, and possibly advises
agrees objectives, provides feedback, and asks questions that assist
(with a script): asks set questions or follows a certain review
CHILD: just keeps asking 'why?'. The reflector can stop the process at
ADVOCATE: tests and challenges what the reflector says. This needs
careful briefing to ensure that the challenges are provided provided
and perceived as being part of a helpful process. The reflector should
stop the process if they feel it is no longer of value.
will you ask people to do when reviewing in twos?
are more likely to stay on task if there is something for them to do
as part of the reviewing process (other than just talking).
Participants can be asked to make, choose and use visual
communication aids to help them reflect and communicate – such as
diagrams, maps, pictures or movable objects. Or participants can be
asked to tell the story of their learning journey as they walk
between points representing stages of their journey. Or participants
can walk and talk together as they follow a question trail, or as
they walk to different parts of a model that is scaled up to fill the
working space. A review that involves some degree of movement can
help the facilitator to see at a glance if there are any pairs that
seem to need extra support to engage in the process. You can find
more detailed examples of these active methods in the
full version of this article (online)
you ask pairs to report back in any way?
reviewing in twos has been working well and producing significant
learning there is a risk that any sharing at the group level is going
to be relatively superficial and less interesting for speakers and
listeners alike: sharing learning in a group can be an anti-climax.
Sometimes such sharing is primarily for satisfying the facilitator's
curiosity (or for providing a quality check) rather than for
enhancing the learning of participants.
more confidence you have as a facilitator in paired reviewing, the
less need there is for a sharing session. But if it is
important to have a sharing session, consider
giving a separate
briefing for this
the paired reviews. This is because the quality of the
paired review can suffer if pairs start thinking about how they will
share their learning before they have had time to learn anything
worth sharing. (But there are exceptions where 'preparing to share'
can help to keep pairs on task.) It
wise to encourage brevity and creativity
in the sharing method so that the sharing stimulates responses that
add further value.
you give time for individual work after reviewing in twos?
reviewing in twos has worked well, then each individual may
appreciate some time on their own to add their thoughts to their
learning journal, their ideas and applications notebook, their action
plan, their blog, etc. If you are
within a groupwork paradigm you may prefer that everything begins and
ends in the group, but if you
that individuals will
transfer their learning to other contexts then
can sometimes be a
more productive way
to finish a review session.
for individual recording after significant reviews will almost
certainly assist with the transfer of learning. Suitably designed
group sessions can also provide powerful ways of supporting learning
transfer. When working in groups it should not always be assumed that
the end of the process is in the whole group. Sometimes a paired
reflection (without sharing) is a suitable way of ending
review session. And sometimes the best ending can be providing time
for individual recording.
reviewing in twos with reviewing in groups
Reviewing in twos
can be used at the beginning, middle or end of a group review. How well
people know each other is a significant factor affecting the quality of
reviews – whether reviewing in a group or in pairs. If people do not
yet know each other well, their limited knowledge of other participants
limits how helpful they can be. People get to know each other much
faster in a paired conversation than in a group setting. On the other
hand, pairs may know each other so well that individuals may feel
cramped, uneasy or even intimidated in each other's presence. Being in
the same pair can be more challenging than being in the same group.
some situations paired work can help build a better learning group.
When people have been able to experience deeper engagement in paired
reviews they can feel more engaged in the group as a whole. If twos are
changed frequently then a series of one-to-one connections can help to
establish a stronger group because more people feel more understood by
more reviewing partners. Reviewing in twos can result in people feeling
more at home in the whole group even if they haven't yet spent much
time together as a whole group.
Reviewing in twos can be a
really useful and powerful part of the mix. The best strategy is to
stay alert to the possibilities for reviewing in groups, in pairs and alone.
If unsure ask the group for their views about finding the optimum
balance. They might know best – for now – because the optimum balance
is always changing.
The full article includes practical examples and
a more in-depth treatment of the topic. The links below will take you
to the full article or to the section that is of most interest to you:
in twos is normal
benefits of reviewing in twos – compared to reviewing in a
benefits of reviewing in twos – compared to reviewing alone
for reviewing in twos
reviewing methods to the sources of experience
paired work to encourage reflection in action
a smart combination of reviewing in groups, in pairs and alone
4 ~ THE OTHER NEWSLETTER: Rebranding Boredom
young people in activity is a common response when they say they are
bored or "there is nothing to do around here". As a parent, as a
teacher and as a trainer I have felt that providing adventure
activities has been (in part) a welcome antidote to boredom.
I do remember one occasion where I offered a group of teenage boys an
open choice of adventure activities and they surprised me by asking to
fishing. So we did. My surprise was followed by (my) boredom, but the
boys were quite enjoying themselves not catching fish.
their perspective it seemed that
hanging-around-with-their-pals-not-doing-very-much in their normal urban
was boring, but that hanging-around-with-their-pals-not-doing-
a remote windswept lake was NOT boring - despite the
can probably tell that I am not keen on fishing. But take me to the
very same place and call it "meditation", "reflection",
"mindfulness" or (better still) "wild mindfulness" and there is a fair
chance that I will approach and reframe much the same experience in a
more favourable way.
me to stay a whole day or overnight and call it "solo" and I might
enjoy the experience even more. You could even ask me to stay for a
whole month and call it "Vision Quest". Now that is a bit of a stretch
(rebranding has its limits for me, I think) but such lengthy sojourns
do appeal to many people.
depends on what fills the nothingness, the absence of activity, the
absence of people, and the absence of structure. One advocate of Quiet
Time, Val Nicholls, describes its therapeutic benefits in her PhD.
see boredom as a spur to creativity and imagination.
Others see boredom as leading to self-initiated action or self-designed
play or simply as valuable "me time". Others see it as a dangerous
vacuum that leads to trouble and chaos.
I was always told that "bored people are boring people" - so I have
long been in the habit of rebranding emptiness. As a child I would
watch raindrops racing down the window - it was an engrossing spectator
activity! These days I choose to enter trail races that can last 24
hours or more. Despite the fact that I am fully engaged in a
challenging activity, friends think I must get bored on these long
runs. Nothing could be further from the truth!
this is the makings of a case for including "boredom" in activity
programmes - we just have to be careful about how we brand it. Any
These reflections first
appeared as a Thought for the Month in February's Experiential-CPD
PS. I have since learned of some interesting research (thank you Tim)
that was reported in Science last year: Just
think: The challenges of the disengaged mind where
I learned that:
11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending
6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think,
that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that
many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of
being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be
doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is
A headline within their report reads: Don't leave me alone with my
Perhaps this could be interpreted as
further evidence for having people review
in twos with something to do, rather
than leaving them alone with only their thoughts for company?
5 ~ ARCHIVE: Reviewing by Numbers: facilitating reflection in small and
is the best sized group for reviewing? 1? 2? 3? 6? 10? 16? 24? 30?
are the sections about "Reviewing in Twos". The full
article is at:
FOR TWO: ROLES FOR REVIEWING IN PAIRS
through with another person can be more dynamic and productive than
being left with your own thoughts. Sometimes the other person is just
a listener, but there are many other useful roles the other person
can adopt - such as a sounding board, a summariser, a buddy, a coach,
or even a devil's advocate. There is no guarantee that the other
person will be good at assisting the process of reflection. The other
person may be too intrusive or challenging, or may stumble into 'no
go' areas, or offer insensitive advice. There is always the risk that
the other person (even a skilled facilitator) will spoil, distort or
disrupt the process of reflection. The risk of ending up with an
'unhelpful' listener can be reduced by providing clear briefings and
by providing an easy way for the 'speaker' to change the rules or opt
out if they find the process is not working well.
FOR TWO: WALKING AND TALKING
goes particularly well with paired reviews is 'walking and talking' -
especially if you have a suitable outdoor location. 'Walking and
Talking' can be combined with any of the above roles. A classic
problem in paired reviews is that one person dominates and the time
is not well shared. One solution is to divide the total time into two
halves by having a clear 'swap over point' at half way (see 'Out and
Back'). Another solution is to have a turn-taking system in which
there is frequent swapping of roles (see 'Chat Cards'). These and
other variations of 'walking and talking' are described next:
AND BACK: 'Out and back' helps to ensure that the time is divided
equally between each person. Pairs walk out to an agreed point, swap
roles and walk back in their new roles. (See previous section for ideas
about 'roles'.) Ideally, each pair heads for a different point to avoid
distractions from other pairs.
CARDS: Each card has a reflective question. Each person takes it in
turns to answer as they walk. One question per card helps people to
focus on one question at a time. Just one good question may be enough
for some pairs, but other pairs may need a plentiful supply of
questions to keep a reflective conversation going. It is better to have
too many questions than too few.
HUNT: Pairs work together to collect symbolic objects that answer
ROUND THE ACTIVE REVIEWING CYCLE: As pairs walk through each stage the
cycle, they focus their reflective conversation on the stage they are
walking through. In practice this takes two or three minutes in each
stage, so you either need a huge cycle or people simply stop and talk
until they are ready to move on to the next stage.
FOR TWO: CHANGING PARTNERS
paired review is where people have a series of brief meetings with
different partners. The speed of this process means that people do
not get stuck in partnerships that are not working. There may not be
very deep reflection during brief meetings, but a quick succession of
paired reflective conversations can quickly add up to a lot of
reflection from various angles in a short space of time. Your choice
of methods will partly depend on how important it is that everyone
meets everyone else.
ABOUT (for one to one feedback): Find a partner, give each other one
positive statement about their contribution to the team exercise, find
a new partner and repeat, etc.
ENCOUNTERS (questions and partners keep changing): Each person starts
with a unique question on a card and finds a partner. Each person
answers their partner's question. They swap cards and each finds a new
(small groups specialise in one question): Subgroups scatter throughout
the whole group conducting brief one to one interviews on the topic in
which they are specialising. Subgroups meet together again to collate
the answers and report back their findings to the whole group.
HATTER'S TEA PARTY: Two lines face each other. People talk with the
person standing opposite. At a given signal, everyone moves one to the
left and starts talking with their new partner. The facilitator
announces a fresh question at each move. If the group is too big to
complete a full cycle, set up a suitable number of smaller groups.
CIRCLES: This is much the same idea as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, but
is a little easier to set up and manage. This structure does not allow
participants to have conversations with people in their own circle, but
it does provide an effective way of meeting and learning one-to-one
with everyone in another group
MEETINGS: Each individual has a list of everyone's names. They place a
mark beside the name of anyone they work with on a paired reviewing
exercise of (say) five minutes or more. From time to time they also
enter this information on a single group matrix that builds up a
picture of who has worked with whom. A number or letter code can be
used to give basic information about who took which role during the
exercise (e.g. L=learner, F=facilitator, S= shared). If the target is
to complete the matrix, remember to provide enough opportunities for
paired reviewing for this to be achievable.
all pairings work well - one person can dominate, trust may be low,
pairs may decide to take easy options, or just go through the motions
or may even opt out. Group facilitators may try to avoid the risks of
paired reviews not working well by keeping everyone together under
their own watchful eye for whole group reflection. But whole group
reflection has its own risks and disadvantages (such as lack of
personal space, less personal attention and less airtime for each
individual). The challenge is to find the right mix (and sequence) of
different group sizes (including reflective time alone) so that there
is a good balance between these different 'social settings' for
by Numbers was published in Active Reviewing Tips 5 years ago.
read the full article here.
6 ~ PREVIOUS ISSUE and FUTURE ISSUES
See the previous issue of Active Reviewing Tips: Learning from Triumphs and Disasters
Topics under consideration for future issues
- The Active Reviewing Cycle: update
- Making the case for active reviewing
- Making reviewing a memorable experience
- Reviewing as a takeaway skill for
- Evaluating Active Reviewing: how well
does it work?
- Reviewing for different outcomes (using
the same activities)
- End of programme reviews
- Co-facilitating reviews
- The art of improvising
- Remote Reviewing
- Reviewing over a cup of tea (informal
- Readers' Questions about Reviewing
(please feed me with questions for this 'FAQ')
- Sample designs for learning and
- 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 write to email@example.com
if you have any topics you would like to see included or put at the top
of this list (which is not yet in any particular order).
7 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips
TITLE: Active Reviewing Tips for Dynamic Experiential Learning
EDITOR: Dr. Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
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