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Innovations in Reviewing

Active Reviewing Tips 7.5   Innovations in Reviewing
  1. EDITOR: Old and New?
  2. TIPS ARTICLE: Innovative Reviewing
  3. TIPPLES: New Stories in Reviewing
  4. BOOKSHOP: New Books, New Deals
  6. WHAT'S NEW at http://reviewing.co.uk
  7. QUOTE: Failure in competitive exercises reduces learning
  8. CASE STUDY: The Birth and Growth of Revolver
  9. INTERACTIVE: New Era for Active Reviewing Exchange

I don't ask for donations for Active Reviewing Tips, but I do ask you to
visit the Active Learning Bookshop. Just like high street bookshops you
are welcome to browse without buying, but this bookshop is even better -
it specialises in books about active learning. Take a look.

~ 1 ~ EDITOR: Old and New?

Did you enjoy last month's edition about Economical Reviewing?
If you missed it or lost it you can find a copy in the archives at:

If 'economical' reviewing did not excite you, maybe 'innovative'
reviewing will?

Have you noticed how everything from marmalade to cars is
advertised as being simultaneously old and new? Advertisers know
that both 'cutting edge' and 'traditional' can be good selling points.
Their favourite trick is to persuade consumers that a product is
both old and new.

Is this a sign of smart advertisers or is it a sign of discriminating
(greedy?) consumers who want the best of both worlds?

In the world of learning, I think most participants appreciate a bit of
both - a sound theoretical foundation and innovative ways of
bringing the theory to life.

The theme of 'old and new' runs throughout this issue, starting with
'innovative reviewing' (next).

~ 2 ~ TIPS ARTICLE: Innovative Reviewing

Participants in my reviewing workshops often ask where certain
tools and techniques come from. Knowing the history of how
particular tools have developed might be of value to you in two

Firstly - knowing the background may help you to use these
reviewing tools more effectively.

Secondly - knowing more about the process by which these tools
were created, might just whet your appetite for developing your
own reviewing tools. This article will help you to tap into your own
powers of innovation.

But why invent or develop new tools when there are so many
ready-made ones to choose from? Is it not better to use a few
tools you know well and just add some ready-made, tried-and-
tested methods when you want a bigger and better toolkit? Why go
to all the trouble of inventing something new? (Although if you think
of inventing as 'trouble' you might never get started.)

Have you ever found that new methods tend work best when you
first use them? That is my experience. I think that my new ideas
work particularly well when they are a response to the needs of the
group and are tailor-made. Whereas when I use a technique for the
umpteenth time I may be relying too much on the technique
(thinking ''this technique works well'') without thinking enough about
the immediate situation and the nature(s) of the people I am
working with.

But old, well-used, established techniques have many advantages
too. Over time, the techniques develop and improve. Your
accumulated experience of using a technique does increase the
chance that it will work well - but only if you are also fully alert to
the situation in which you are working.

I know there are many other benefits arising from working in
innovative ways, but rather than writing an essay about innovation,
I will instead let you into a few 'secrets' - about how some of my
reviewing methods were born. In fact, until writing this article I had
kept these 'secrets' from myself - because this is the first time I
have systematically reviewed where my ideas come from.

I hope this exercise in reviewing the origins of reviewing methods
will awaken or sharpen your own innovative instincts while also
providing a few tips along the way. [If you want more information
about individual techniques, see the link at the end of this article.]

So where did these reviewing techniques come from? Here are my
brief explanations:

* Deliberate creativity with colleagues ...
(Both examples also happen to involve books)

METAPHOR MAPS - a reviewing friend (thanks Dig) who gave me a
book (The Atlas of Experience) with the message "What a gift for
reviewing!'' The method has developed in many directions from that
starting point.

REVOLVER [now "TURNTABLE"] - deliberate creative thinking with colleagues wanting to
develop new reviewing techniques. [A fuller version of this story is
included as a case study below.]

* A happy accident (arising from participants' creativity) ...

MISSING PERSON - a happy accident. The person who didn't turn
up was given a name and a character and became almost as much
a part of the group as the real people in the group.

* To stimulate creativity ...

THE JOKER - wanting to introduce more initiative and intuition into
the way in which the Active Reviewing Cycle was being interpreted
and applied (too routinely).

* The lack of resources, leading to creativity ...

ACTION REPLAY - after learning this method with a camera I found
myself without one. Endless variations have developed thanks to
the many participants who have taken this concept in some
wonderfully strange and surprisingly useful directions.

* Developing variations of a method that works well ...

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS - I learned the blank card version from Jim Cain
and have since created my own sets of questions for reviewing
experiences on specific themes.

PREDICTIONS - realising that predictions are often more powerful
than plans, and so exploring ways of working with predictions.

* Finding a new use for an old method

THREE THINGS - adaptation of a storytelling method I came up with
to make bedtime storytelling more interactive and fun. The
challenge of making connections between apparently unconnected
events is a useful strategy for aiding the transfer of learning.

ACTIVITY MAP - originally devised as part of a course on
programme design. I then found an even better use for it as a
reviewing tool.

CHARTING SUCCESS - applying Disaster Charting to charting of
achievements. This was part of a deliberate development of
success-focused reviewing techniques.

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS - adaptation of a story-telling
method I developed when teaching English. The story only comes
out if the audience ask good questions. I have since discovered
connections with the Visitor Technique in Active Tutorial Work.

JUST A MINUTE - a straight copy of a well-known radio programme
but when reviewing, the subject is always a reviewing topic.

* Recognising the shortcomings of an existing method and doing
something about it ...

CHOCOLATE REVIEWS - on feeling too teacherly when using the
conch or talking stick or match sticks to encourage more equal
input in discussions (a wonderful way of quietening loud people and
loudening quiet people).

HORSESHOE - wanting to enable all-round eye-contact and a better
shape for group discussion when people stand in line on a spectrum
showing where they stand on an issue.

ALTERNATING ROUNDS - to make rounds more engaging and

SNAKES AND LADDERS - wanting a playful adaptation of Force Field
Analysis that would allow people to map their world and experience
different future scenarios.

WARM SEAT - my dissatisfaction with the discomfort of Hot Seat
and of how it contravenes the accepted principles of giving and
receiving feedback.

PIE CHART WITH ROPES - wanting to scale things up in a large

STORYTELLER'S CHAIR - partly inspired by Just a Minute (because
challengers can take over from the storyteller) but this version
makes it easier to occupy the chair because the storyteller can
choose to vacate the chair at any time.

QUESTIONS FOR SUCCESS - on noticing that open, neutral
questions often get negative responses, I realised the need to ask
questions focused on success to stimulate a more balanced review.

* Seeking greater efficiency

HAPPY CHART VARIATIONS [now "STORYLINE"]- to speed up a slow process (the
original Happy Chart process takes ages).

JOGGER CARDS (now "GOAL KEEPERS") - wanting an unobtrusive way to
give instant feedback and speed up the learning cycle.

TANDEM REVIEWING - wanting a way of bridging the real world and
the training world that considers both as a source of learning.

* Responding to needs during a programme ...

SLIDING CARDS - managers wanting ways to improve meetings.

SOLO CHALLENGE (aka Anyone Can Veto Anything) - wanting to
give some individual space in a team programme while also providing
an intensive team experience. Yes it's possible!

CARD SURVEY [now "SIMULTANOEOUS SURVEY"] - having a lot to review in a short time and wanting to cover everything in depth. Still needs improving to get closer to this impossible goal!

DECIDING LINE - an emergency 'filler' that has turned out to have
many applications for consensus decisions, team development,
creative thinking and developing the concept of 'appreciative

THEATRE OF THE ABSURD - individuals returning from a 24 hour solo
all had stories to tell to the 9 others in the group. All were
interested but tired: it would be tough on the last storyteller (and
on their audience). So all the audience became performers in each
other's story. Unexpected benefits resulted.

FOOTBALL METAPHORS - searching for a common language while
working with a group of apprentices who knew their way around the
world of football more than any other world (and so drawing on their
interest and knowledge).

* Turning principles into practice ...

OBJECTIVE LINE [now "BACK TO THE FUTURE"] - wanting to create a physical way of applying the principles of solution-focused thinking.

ORBITS - to give control of 'rounds' to learners (in keeping with the
principle of encouraging learners' curiosity and responsibility for
their learning).

APPRAISAL REPORTS - redesigning the structure of these souvenir
reports so that they aligned more closely with the programme
philosophy (of self-development aided by peer appraisal).

FUTURE WALKING - wanting to generate a realistic experience of
the future to make it (just) possible to apply experiential learning
principles and methods to the future.

* Turning research findings into practice ...

MAKING LEARNING STICKY - a practical application of principles I
have found in my study of the transfer of learning.

THE ACTIVE REVIEWING CYCLE - arose from studying how
experienced colleagues were (intuitively) sequencing their reviews.

* And finally ...

A VOTE OF THANKS - the only beer-fueled invention on this list. A
hilarious climbing club dinner where nobody was to be left out of
speech-making or of having a speech made about them. It just
happened this way. The reviewing technique is more deliberate -
and is alcohol free.

That's how these 36 reviewing techniques were 'born': sometimes
as a result of careful planning, sometimes due to quick thinking,
sometimes it's just a happy accident or pure inspiration. But none of
these ways of innovating would come to pass if they were not
driven by a determination to do a job well, together with an
understanding of the basic principles of how to bring the process of
experiential learning alive. Such determination is usually sensed by
participants - most of whom (in my experience) will appreciate
customised innovation over standardised routines.

* For further reference ...

Section 8 below tells one of the above stories in greater detail.

Most of the above techniques listed above are described at:
Enter the name of the technique in the search box.

The most cost-effective way of receiving training in reviewing skills
(new and old) is to get a group of people together with this
common interest and get in touch - wherever you are in the world.
If you prefer to do the calculations in advance see:

~ 3 ~ TIPPLES: New Stories in Reviewing

Why are stories so important when learning and developing through

New experiences are most valuable when there are also
opportunities to create new stories. How learners talk about their
experiences indicates what they are learning and how the
experience is affecting their development.

Telling stories is the 'method' that we naturally use to tell others
about our experiences. There are, of course, many ways in which a
facilitator can intervene in this 'natural' process - and there are
many good reasons for doing so.

In the age of sound bites, instant communications and crash
courses for quick learning, do we have time for the telling of

Both 'story-making' and 'story-telling' can be the key to learning
from experience. These processes can be enhanced by a variety of
'story-based' reviewing methods. 30 such methods are described in
this section (follow the link below). But given that learning through
stories has been happening throughout human evolution, what you
find here is a very small sample of what is possible!

~ 4 ~ BOOKSHOP: New Books, New Deals


Outdoor and Experiential Learning:
An Holistic and Creative Approach to Programme Design
Andy Martin, Dan Franc and Daniela Zounkova (2004)
Roger's detailed review of this fascinating approach to programme
design: 'dramaturgy' (sounds like a word from a Gilbert and Sullivan


A Widening Field:
Journeys in Body and Imagination
Miranda Tufnell, Chris Crickmay
This is a handbook for working in the creative arts, with an emphasis
upon imagination and receptivity: to our bodies, to our surroundings,
our materials, and to what we create.

Asking the Right Questions:
A Guide to Critical Thinking
M.Neil Browne, Stuart M Keeley
This book helps readers bridge the gap between simply memorizing or
blindly accepting information and the greater challenge of critical
analysis and synthesis.

Beyond Traditional Training:
Develop Your Skills to Maximize Training Impact
Ken Marshall
A self-improvement guide for trainers, showing how to develop personal
skills to increase the impact and effectiveness of training.

Developing Intuition:
Practical Guidance for Daily Life
Shakti Gawain
Most people learn to suppress the natural connection to their intuition,
and were trained to solely rely on their logical, rational mind.

The Hidden Intelligence:
Using Intuition for Critical Business Decisions
Sandra Weintraub
Explores what intuition is and is not, and why it is often hidden.

All of these books are listed and reviewed on one page at:


Tune Your Brain:
Using Music to Manage Your Mind, Body, and Mood
Elizabeth Miles
Explores the power of music in relation to motivation, mood, and
behavior while explaining how different types of music create varying
levels of power in the mind and body. 

The full (categorised) 'UNDER A FIVER' list is at:

I don't ask for donations for Active Reviewing Tips, but I do ask you to
visit the Active Learning Bookshop. Just like high street bookshops you
are welcome to browse without buying, but this bookshop is even better -
it specialises in books about active learning. Take a look.

~ 5 ~ TRAINING CALENDAR: Reviewing Workshops and other events

GERMANY: Johan Hovelynck
FACILITATION - What Makes Your Program Truly Experiential?
2 day workshop for advanced practitioners with Johan Hovelynck
November 22nd (18:00) - 24th (17:00), 2004 at Altenkirchen,
Westerwald, Germany. Details:
or write to Bernd Rademachers at <mailto:info@fourteams.de>

NETHERLANDS: Roger Greenaway
Friday 4th - Saturday 5th February 2005
in the Netherlands (conducted in English)
This is Roger's fourth open workshop in the Netherlands.

FUTURE EVENTS: Roger Greenaway
Open events in which I will be providing training in reviewing and
related subjects: Hong Kong, Denmark, South Africa, Norway. Dates
and venues will be announced via this newsletter and on my

The most cost-effective way of receiving training in reviewing skills
(new and old) is to get a group of people together with this
common interest and get in touch - wherever you are in the world.
If you prefer to do the calculations in advance see:

~ 6 ~ WHAT'S NEW at http://reviewing.co.uk

The main additions are new books at:

and my review of Outdoor and Experiential Learning at:

~ 7 ~ QUOTE: Failure in competitive exercises reduces learning

Newell and Ibbetson investigated a series of outdoor courses in
which teams were encouraged to compete with each other for
points. Members of some teams believed they were operating worse
by the end of the course, and the experience had a negative
impact on their perceptions of personal benefits. (Not surprisingly,
these were the teams with the lowest scores!) A follow-up study
was made of a similar programme, except that competition was
avoided and no points were awarded at the end of an activity. In
this situation there were no significant differences between the
different teams' responses to the course. The researchers

"This strongly suggests that it was the fact of  'labelling' those
people in the 'losing' teams, so that they came to see themselves
and their teams as failures, that led to the deterioration in
perceptions of team effectiveness and personal benefits."

Newell, S. and Ibbetson, A. (1995) 'Evaluation Matters', Practical
Training, 23-24 (research summary presented at the British
Psychological Society's occupational psychology conference,
January 1995)

~ 8 ~ CASE STUDY: The Birth and Growth of Revolver

The pessimist/optimist version of Revolver is probably the most
widely used of the reviewing techniques I have trained others to
use. It is a reviewing exercise that promotes the transfer of
learning. Here is an account of its innovation and development ...

Revolver is a revolving discussion that was inspired by a game of
volleyball that was (in turn) inspired by Terry Orlick's Cooperative
Sports and Games Handbook. These events all happened during a
staff training weekend at Endeavour Scotland where I was working
as a training consultant (around 15 years ago).

In the game of volleyball, as well as rotating within teams after
each point, there was also rotation between teams. This rotation
meant that at the end of the game everyone had spent about as
much time in the winning team as they had in the losing team. I
didn't notice anyone trying less hard because the make up of the
teams kept changing. If anything, the novelty of the idea added to
everyone's motivation.

This simple rule change allows the seemingly impossible to happen -
a competitive game that does not create losers. You can enjoy the
benefits of competitive play without creating losers. If only this
were possible in learning! Well it is. By copying the pattern of the
fully rotating volleyball game, we created the reviewing technique
now called Revolver (or, more recently, Turntable).

This technique has been around for many years and feedback from
those who use the technique together with my own experiences of
using it have resulted in a growing list of tips, variations and
applications that build on the original concept.

One of the main innovations has been the creation of a third 'side'
for listening, or for asking questions, or for lateral thinking. Each of
these 'third side' options was introduced to prevent the discussion
becoming too polarised.

Despite the fact that people spend equal time on both sides of an
argument, they can end up being 'stuck' in the position where they
finished. On recognising this problem, it is now standard advice to
rearrange people and furniture to mark the end of what can easily
turn into a role play exercise (depending on how much people
exaggerate or contradict their real views). Participants are also
given the opportunity to disassociate themselves from views they
expressed 'in role' rather than 'from the heart'.

Before 'Revolver' was developed, one of my favourite end of course
reviewing activities (for assisting transfer) was a version of the
Gestalt 'Empty Chair' exercise. Individuals would speak their
pessimistic predictions to an empty chair, then change chairs and
speak their optimistic predictions to the chair they had just
vacated. (Their mumblings were drowned out by fairly loud music). I
find that Revolver has many advantages and few disadvantages
compared to 'Empty Chair'.

Always doubtful about the value of competition in learning, it was
no surprise to me to find that research 'strongly suggests' that
failure in competitive exercises reduces learning. I am sure that
applies to the reviewing part of the learning process as well.
Revolver provides a way of having a good debate without creating
losers. Is that called squaring the circle?

So a strange game of volleyball has turned into a reviewing
technique that has links with Gestalt therapy, role play and findings
from research about competition in learning.

Revolver is most valuable as a discussion format that helps people
to explore different sides of an issue. After taking part in such an
even-handed discussion participants will probably have a better
understanding of what the world looks like from an unfamiliar
perspective. They may change their view as a consequence, but
they will have at least considered (and even experienced) other
positions. They are wiser because they have tried out other

A few years ago, Revolver turned a full circle (so to speak). I was
working with youth club leaders who were concerned about the
negative impact of the experience of losing during their annual
competitions event. So part of the training involved using the
Revolver technique to debate the pros and cons of competition. It
was back to the roots because the original concept was inspired by
a game inspired by the 'Cooperative Sports and Games Handbook'. If
only Bernie de Koven's 'Junkyard Sports' existed at the time, this
training event might have been even more revolutionary and even
more fun!

* For further reference ...

Full reviews of both cooperative games books:



~ 9 ~ INTERACTIVE: New Era for Active Reviewing Exchange

The Discussion Group related to Active Reviewing Tips has just re-
opening for two weeks to discuss any issues, ideas, tips, links,
feedback, etc. arising from this issue of Active Reviewing Tips.

To help you (and me) manage email commitments, the list will be
opening for two week periods about 5 times a year. If it turns out
to be too much, unsubscribing is easy. If it's not enough, let me
know and we'll find some other way of satisfying your interest in the

List Name Active Reviewing Exchange (ARTips Exchange)

Purpose: Active Reviewing Exchange is a discussion group for
subscribers to the Active Reviewing Tips newsletter. This group is
for facilitators to exchange ideas stimulated by the newsletter and
to help each other develop ideas and practices in active learning.
The focus is on maximising learning from experience - using
reflection and discussion or more creative and dynamic methods.

Current Membership: just 23 people!

Opening times: approximately 5 times a year for periods of two weeks.
The open now - until Friday 12th November.

I am looking forward to getting to know a few more readers and
sharing a common enthusiasm - about 5 times a year. See you there?

Do you have any innovative reviewing ideas you would like to share with a wider audience?

Each month Active Reviewing Tips brings you:

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