|GUIDE TO ACTIVE REVIEWING||
PRESENTATIONS create ideal opportunities for participants to share their experiences and their learning with others.
GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS
Presentations are sometimes contained within a course - with one group (or subgroup) presenting their experiences to another group (or subgroup). Presentations at the end of a course are likely to be more 'public', especially if the audience includes people who have not been part of the course.
Communicating to others about an activity-based programme is yet another opportunity for learning: it involves looking at the whole experience from a new point of view. It involves 're-viewing' the course from an 'outside' perspective. It is also a chance for re-inforcing the central theme or purpose of a programme.
CONVERTING REVIEWING METHODS
How do participants explain to 'outsiders' what it was like, what they have got from it, and what they have learned? These are the $64,000 questions!
It is notoriously difficult for people (of any age) to communicate significant personal experiences without being stuck for words or resorting to clichés. But these questions are more easily answered if participants have been in the habit of reviewing their experiences throughout the course.
If the reviewing has included creative and dramatic methods, there should be plenty of ideas and resources around to help learners communicate their experiences to 'outsiders'. Although most reviewing methods described here have no audience in mind, many of the methods can be readily converted to form part of a 'presentation'.
If any material was produced solely for the purpose of reviewing, and is now being considered as part of a presentation, ensure that the producers of this material (video, writing, art work) have given their full consent for it to be used for this new purpose.
SOMETHING TO SHOW
Having 'something to show' helps people to communicate to others about the experience. It is in everyone's interests (providers, participants, audience and other stakeholders) to ensure that presentations (in whatever form) are well prepared and do justice to the programme. How people present what they have been doing and learning to others is an issue which is best considered before a programme has started. Should it be formal or informal? Should it be in the form of group or individual presentations or both? Messages about the experience can be presented in the following ways:
logbooks, reports, portfolios, photograph album, slide show, video, exhibition, open evening, play, demonstration of skills, ceremony, discussion, meeting, campaign, article in a local newspaper, personal souvenirs etc.
SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS
When reviewers are working hard to encourage learners to express themselves within a group, it can too easily happen that the subject of communicating with 'outsiders' about their experiences becomes an afterthought. It can be vitally important for influential others in a person's life to be faced with the good news about them - especially if their restricted or prejudiced view has not yet allowed them to see the person's true capabilities.
If the experience was 'good news', then the more people who know about it, the more chance there is that the learner will find themselves living in a favourable world in which their talents and their better nature are recognised. This is particularly important for people who are stuck with reputations or 'labels' that they are trying hard to leave behind.
IF ONLY MY MUM COULD SEE ME NOW!
'PERFORMING' describes how (without special training in drama skills) people can create and produce a play for performing to an audience.
In the examples below, the performance is based on a theme which allows participants to draw on their experiences of learning through doing. Ideally, the performance also anticipates the future application of what has been learned.
Neither example depends on the reviewer being able to provide training in drama skills - nor do these examples depend on learners having acting talents. However, the examples that follow do assume that the people involved have already demonstrated that they have sufficient motivation and groupwork skills to tackle independent tasks successfully.
A PERFORMANCE BASED ON ACTION REPLAYS
If the group enjoyed doing an ACTION REPLAY (or another drama-based reviewing method), they may feel more confident building on their existing achievement than starting from scratch. These are some questions to ask to a group thinking about converting an action replay into a performance in front of an audience:
[The following example describes part of a residential programme for young people aged 15-20. 'Celebrations to Remember' Issue 2.3 of Active Reviewing Tips provides an example of an adult expedition group sharing their experiences and their learning.]
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT: TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION
This section describes how two performances were set up during a weekend of activity-based learning for young people from Clydebank. (Activities had included physical, creative, and problem-solving ones.)
GETTING IDEAS TOGETHER
As an introduction to brainstorming, small groups listed 'all' the possible uses of a stone, then selected what they felt were their best and most unique ideas.
This was followed by a brainstorm about 'power' and a five minute performance about 'power'. It was felt that the pace of this exercise would help groups to get over any fears about 'performance', so that these would not get in the way of the main 'performance' later in the day. (The group which found this performance most difficult chose to make a video for the main 'performance' project.)
This was the written briefing for the first performance.
"A challenge against the clock! Your group has 15 minutes to get ideas and prepare for a 5 minute play about POWER. Everyone in the group must come up with an idea of their own before the group decide which idea (or ideas) to use. Everyone in the group should have an important part in the play. You can choose any site for your play that is within one minute's walk from the main meeting room, provided that twenty people will be able to see and hear the action."
IDEAS INTO ACTION
the written briefing for the main performance.
"You have been practising the skills that are needed for 'IDEAS INTO ACTION' - teamwork, getting ideas, making decisions, performing as a group. This your chance to bring it all together into a twenty minute 'production'.
You are free to use any issues, themes, ideas, media or skills from the weekend so far, but your 'production' should include:
Any of these 'REPORTS' could include statements about what someone has learned or achieved through taking part in activities:
Record of Achievement, Record of Experience, Curriculum Vitae, School Report, Social Enquiry Report, Community-Based Assessment, Logbook, Course Report, Certificate, Reference, Competency Statement, Portfolio, Resumé, Appraisal Form, Learning Log ...
Many readers of such reports will expect to find insights into a person's development. Here are some ideas for producing reports which reflect the true potential of the individual concerned, by ensuring that good news (in particular) is recorded, and that it is presented in a suitable format.
For some purposes, 'a suitable format' might be concise and formal, but more informative approaches (such as a portfolio of items collected during reviews) are also valued in many situations. The format described below is a three part report comprising SELF APPRAISAL, PEER APPRAISAL and STAFF APPRAISAL. The chief merit of this format is that by providing several perspectives, its readers have a more complete picture (and can always choose to pay more attention to whichever perspective interests them most). Like the portfolio approach, it can make use of material generated by other review methods.
A report should demonstrate that the person is capable of reflecting on and learning from their own experience. If learners report on their experience in their own language, this will often provide greater insight and have more credibility than even the most eloquent statement from staff. A self-appraisal can be structured as a series of statements such as: "What I achieved ... what I experienced ... what I learned ... what I'm beginning to learn." It could also make use of extracts from a logbook or diary or use items from review sessions. It can include charts, diagrams or other illustrations that have been produced during reviews. It can be set out in the form of an ACTION PLAN or resolutions.
Assessment of learners by each other is a particularly effective way of affirming the qualities and abilities brought out through activities. Other group members can often provide the most insightful perspective of all for a report. Appraisal comments from others can be recorded and collected during review sessions when feedback is given. If such material is not available, a special session can be set up in which the whole group (or subgroups) generate appraisal comments for each other. Ideally these comments are supported by reference to specific events or situations.
I have found that people not known for their sensitivity will rise to the occasion when they are taking it in turns as givers and receivers of appraisal, and when they know they are producing a report that could be of special value to some or all of the group.
This could be the smallest section of a report if reviewing has produced plenty of material for the first two sections. Only if learners are unable to say much about themselves or each other will it be necessary for staff to write much more than an endorsement. Even if reviews have not directly produced material for reports, reviewers will at least have a much closer and more rounded knowledge of individuals as a result of regular reviewing.
THE MORE PERSPECTIVES THE BETTER
A ten week community-based assessment programme demonstrated that:
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