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DISCUSSION: CHANGING VIEWS

TURNTABLE

(originally named 'Revolver')

Turntable is a discussion format that enable learners to explore any issue from 2 (or more) sides. The issue can be about the group (e.g. the quality of our teamwork) or anything topical (e.g. global warming, changes in the workplace). It can be about reviewing what has already happened or about predicting what will happen.

Benefits:

  • Better mutual understanding (if you sort fact from fiction - see 'getting out of role')
  • A more 'all-round' perspective of the experience
  • Participants learn (something about) what it is like to be in other people's shoes
  • Participants join in on different sides of a debate and (at least temporarily) unfreeze from their fixed positions on an issue.
  • It's fun! (usually - but debating can generate all kinds of emotions)
The explanation below applies to 2 team debates when you explore 2 sides of an issue. It is easily adapted to 3 team debates for exploring 3 sides of an issue.

Preparation

  • Announce a debate 'for' and 'against' (e.g. for and against 'competition').
  • Explain that everyone will have an equal chance to take part on both sides of the debate.
  • Arrange the group in two semi-circles, facing each other.
  • Name one side 'for' and one side 'against'.
  • Explain that the labels 'for' and 'against' apply to the places (or chairs) and not to the people (as people will be changing places during the discussion).

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The role of the Judge

  • Appoint a judge (or play the role yourself).
  • Each time the judge considers that a point has been 'scored' in the debate, the point is recorded and the teams swap one member. This is achieved by having everyone stand and 'revolve' to the next seat on their left. (You can speed up the 'revolution' by asking everyone to move on two seats.)
  • The judge should be fairly generous in awarding points both to keep the 'game' moving and to acknowledge participation in the debate. The judge may be more generous towards timid or less skilled debaters in order to encourage all to participate.
  • If the judge considers that one side is dominating the discussion and excluding the other side, the offending side is silenced for a suitable period while the other side is given an opportunity to score a point (equivalent to a free kick).
  • There is plenty of scope for developing this discussion format, but if the rules become too elaborate they may distract from the main purpose - which is to encourage participants to join in on both sides of the debate.

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Variations

  • Point scoring is not an essential feature. Turntable works well both with and without scoring. The judge simply calls 'all change' whenever he or she feels the time is right.
  • Circuit Judge: The role of the judge can be included in the circuit. In other words, the facilitator vacates the judge's seat on first calling 'all change'. This allows a group member to move into the judge's seat, while the facilitator moves into an adjacent 'debating' seat, and participates (for a while) on that side of the debate. A suitable point to finish is when a full circuit is complete i.e. when the facilitator has returned to the judge's place.

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The final score

How should the final score be interpreted? This in itself can be an interesting discussion point. One likely (and useful) interpretation is that both sides are now stronger (having more fully developed arguments) - everyone's a winner!

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Getting out of role

Not everyone appreciates that this is a role play exercise in which people are exaggerating their views or expressing views with which they disagree. So it is worth reminding everyone that they have been performing: no-one should assume that any views expressed were genuine. Everyone was acting, even if the part they were playing happened to be close to their actual beliefs. You may need to give people the opportunity to sort fact from fiction and to state how their own views are similar or different to the views they expressed during the Turntable exercise.

If sensitive issues have arisen, it may be important for people to sort fact from fiction in front of the whole group. But you may usually prefer quicker ways of making the transition from 'role play' back to 'normal'. For example ... Ask everyone to rearrange the seating and rearrange themselves. On their way to a different seat ask them to find a partner and tell them about anything they said that was their 'role' view rather than their 'real' view. Now ask each person to restate a view spoken in role that is also their own real view. You can do this as a round or as another partner exercise.

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Applications

Turntable can be used at any time
  1. BEGINNING: e.g. reviewing a topic
    At the beginning of a course or topic it can be used for introducing an issue. It draws out participants' existing knowledge, assumptions, motivations, beliefs and prejudices. (But be sure to allow people to disown any views expressed in role that are not their own).
  2. MIDDLE: e.g. complacency vs. modesty
    During a course, the opposing views can be about the quality of teamwork ''We are the world's worst team'' vs. ''We are the world's best team''. Ideally, the topic chosen is close to the purpose of the exercise or the course as a whole.
  3. END: e.g. training for transfer
    Turntable is particularly useful near the end of a course where participants are wondering whether their new learning or inspiration will make a difference. The structure of Turntable allows everyone to argue from both 'pessimistic' and 'optimistic' viewpoints. This is a good prelude for planning or a good test for plans already made.
Turntable can motivate reluctant participants
  • Reluctance can have many causes - so take care if using Turntable as a motivational tool or as a strategy for 'out-flanking' disruptive participants. Used well, Turntable can actually bring these issues into the open in a reasonably controlled manner.

    The two sides of this debate are (something like): ''I should be at work. Attending this course will make no difference.'' versus ''Attending this course will benefit my work.''

    The issue is similar to the 'training for transfer' topic described above. The difference is in the timing. At the beginning of a course it will affect participants' attitude to the course. At the end of a course it will help to prepare participants for transferring their learning back to the workplace.
Turntable can encourage and improve note-taking
  • This is another use of Turntable at the start of a course. The issue is (something like): ''This course manual will help me transfer learning from the course more than my notebook will.'' versus ''My notebook will help me transfer learning from the course more than this course manual will.''

    This usually results in better appreciation of both the manual and their personal notebooks. I like to continue this theme of ''appreciative competition'' by warning participants that there will be a notebook competition during the course. The competition follows the pattern of 'Deciding Line' in which both notebooks are appreciated before the better one is chosen for the next round.
Warning! Although Turntable has many uses, I don't recommend using it more than once on any one programme. There are many other good ways of reviewing such issues. If you want more ideas you are welcome to: For even more ideas about using Turntable/Revolver, scroll down to read about other people's experiences of using it.

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Sharing Practice: Using and Developing 'Turntable'



If you would like to add your own story about using or adapting Turntable, please write to: roger@reviewing.co.uk I will only share your story with the world if you give your permission.

To have scrolled this far down the page, you might even be interested in learning the story of Revolver/Turntable - it's birth and growth. This is a case study within my article about Innovations in Reviewing.

Postscript on the change of name.
I changed the name from Revolver to Turntable on discovering that this method was being referred to as a 'shooting match' which is not the kind of revolver I had in mind when naming the exercise! It's primary purpose is to reduce conflict by getting people to appreciate other points of view. I was tempted to rename it 'Merry-Go-Round' which it sometimes resembles - but not when the topic is a serious one.

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