ACTIVE Reviewing Tips
for dynamic experiential learning


Designing Active Review Methods: 10 Tips

Roger Greenaway's Active Reviewing Tips ~ ISSN 1465-8046

is no longer published but you can view more back issues in the ARCHIVES

For Roger's blog and other writings please see the Guide to Active Reviewing

Practical tips on how to design reviewing methods for experiential learning progammes. Reviewing = processing / debriefing / reflection

ARTips 13.6 Designing Active Review Methods: 10 Tips


This issue brings you the third in a series of articles about the design of reviewing processes in experiential learning.. That adds up to 30
design tips over the last three months. If you missed any you can
easily track them down in the Active Reviewing Tips Archives.

I have tried tasting my own medicine by implementing 15 of these
30 tips in a simple new design called 'Couch Potatoes' which you
will find in section 3 below.

How to enter: you need to implement at least one of these 30 design tips and describe what happened - in a Tweet or a few sentences.

Your reward for entering is that you will receive FULL descriptions of two of the following methods: Activity Map, Back to the Future,
Storyline, Simultaneous Survey, Horseshoe, Turntable. Say which
two you would like. That is your reward - simply for entering.

Winning entries that are published in Active Reviewing Tips
(with your permission) will be rewarded with all six
descriptions. I hope to publish one winning entry each month in 2012.

If you get frustrated when you see the name of a reviewing method in Active Reviewing Tips without an accompanying description, then ease your frustration by entering the competition and receiving 2 (or even 6) full descriptions for your growing toolkit.

I look forward to receiving your entry soon - while you remember.

Roger Greenaway
roger@reviewing.co.uk (for competition entries and any other business)

PS If you like this issue, please tell others.
If you can suggest improvements please tell me.
If you tweet, you can now follow @roger_review on Twitter

Up to index



By Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training

This is the third in a series of articles about the design of reviewing processes in experiential learning. Each article zooms in closer than the previous one:

The first was about programme design.

The second was about session design.

This article is about method design.

You may be thinking that you could save a lot of time by skipping this article and using a ready-made off-the-shelf reviewing method. You may not think of yourself as a designer of reviews. But I bet you are! I am sure that you adapt and adjust reviewing methods that you already know and use – depending on the group size, the group mood, the time and space available, your primary objective, etc. Without making such adjustments, off-the-shelf methods fall flat. Making adjustments involves re-designing. And the more re-designing you do, the more you can claim to be a designer of reviewing methods. Here are ten tips on how to build on your existing design skills.

  1. Simplicity

  2. Novelty

  3. Go large

  4. Use props

  5. Use tasks

  6. Draw on popular culture

  7. Make it fun to facilitate

  8. Pull out all the stops

  9. Treat participants as explorers

  10. Involve participants as co-designers

Navigation tip: click your back button to return to this index.


There is something appealing about elegant designs that are instantly understood and that need minimal explanation and very few rules. So try designing 'out' what is not essential rather than designing 'in' extras in an attempt to dress up a poor design. Explore the possibility that 'less is more' in your design. 'Less is more' could mean any or all of these:

  • the less the facilitator does, the more there is for participants to do

  • a review exploring one question achieves more than a review exploring 10 questions

  • limiting responses to one sentence improves reflection, expression and listening.

Experiences can be complex phenomena so take care that simplicity in design does not lead to superficial responses. That would be simplicity gone wrong. I regard 'Warm Seat' as a simple 'plain vanilla' design in which the learner receiving feedback is encouraged to ask just one question. See http://reviewing.co.uk/feedback.htm#warmseat


Go for the kind of novelty that captures the imagination and that makes people want to have a go. With novelty there is less risk of the method prompting unwanted associations, such as an adult saying "This is kids' play – I was throwing rubber chickens around in kindergarten". Novelty provides a clean, fresh start. My own innovations in reviewing arose in many ways including some fresh starts and some recycling of old ideas. Innovation resulted from various processes including:

  • deliberate creativity with colleagues

  • adapting a method because the usual resources were not available

  • developing variations of a method that already worked well

  • finding a new use for an old method

  • recognising the shortcomings of an existing method and doing something about it

  • seeking greater efficiency

  • responding to needs arising during a programme

  • turning principles into practice

  • turning research findings into practice

For my full article on Innovations in Reviewing, see http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/7_5.htm


Scale up methods so that (for example):

  • a line on a page becomes a rope on the ground

  • a 2 x 2 diagram becomes four quarters of a room

  • steps in a process become the stairs to the floor above.

Walking around inside a big diagram stimulates deeper reflection than does thinking about a diagram on a page. I admire experienced practitioners of meditation who achieve deep reflection without moving, but walking around inside large models provides different kinds of opportunities for reflection that are more dynamic and that are more open to all.


Some simple props can be highly transformative:

wearing a mask; using a microphone; wearing a special hat; sitting on a throne; operating the remote control in Action Replay; holding the conch from Lord of the Flies, Harry Potter's wand or invisible cloak, a talking stick, or a clapper board ...

The best props instantly transport people into a particular frame. For example, a prop can signify:

honesty, curiosity, authority, democracy, a thinking style, an interview style or a special power.

Props (or pictures) from the activity being reviewed may have taken on special meaning and significance for the group – such as:

the treasure they found, the clock that timed them out, the rope that connected them together, the picture or symbol representing what they survived or achieved.


A common pattern in much experiential learning is: Brief Task Debrief. During the task, the facilitator often has a monitoring and observing role while the group perform the task independently. When it comes to the debrief (or review), the facilitator is back in charge. But there is another option at this stage: the review/debrief can itself be an independent task such as:

  • carrying out a survey

  • making a map or flow chart

  • creating a picture of a new person to join the team

  • performing an action replay that highlights critical moments.

Tasks qualify as 'review' tasks if the task design requires people to reflect on their previous experiences. Good designs make it likely that everyone is fully involved in the process. This may, for example, involve people working in pairs or in small groups. A design may focus on just one stage of a learning cycle - such as storytelling or analysis. A review task does not necessarily follow a full learning cycle ending with a future focus. In fact many good review tasks naturally lead into a facilitated review. The output from a review task gives the facilitator plenty of 'material' to work with. When participant tasks feed into the next stage of a reviewing process, the whole process becomes more enriched, more focused and more engaging.


One of the main reasons for drawing on popular culture is that it can provide you with ready-made styles and formats to work with that everyone instantly understands. Quiz shows, chat shows and talent shows with panels of judges scoring performances all provide well-known, ready-made, and tried and tested formats that can be readily converted into reviewing formats. Care needs to be taken with formats that can become cruel or humiliating (such as The Weakest Link or The Apprentice). Such formats risk introducing values that are at odds with the kind of learning culture that you are trying to create. You can always be selective and build a technique around just one aspect of a show. For example, Kaye Richards created a mock-up of the Big Brother diary room in order to provide the cues for a particular style of interviewing. And Colin Beard models one of his activities in The Experiential Learning Toolkit on the Antiques Roadshow which cues certain ways of handling and exploring objects and talking about them.


Create designs that give the facilitator something more to do than simply give the brief and manage the time. Although it is good to keep the focus on what the learner is doing, you can add value by giving the facilitator an interesting and demanding role in the process – without squeezing out opportunities for participants. Here are some examples of facilitation roles that can be 'fun':

  • In Solo Challenge you facilitate the negotiation of suitable challenges for each individual.

  • In Turntable you can take turns like everyone else and enjoy joining in on all sides.

  • In Vote of Thanks your key role is to ensure that no-one misses out on appreciation.

  • In Horseshoe or Warm Seat you can invite feedback for yourself and lead by example.

For more examples see 'What do facilitators do?' at http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/13_1_what_do_facilitators_do.htm

Fun for participants can be even more important, and is included within the next tip. For more on 'fun' see Reviewing for Fun: http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/8_1.htm#Reviewing_for_Fun


Playing the organ with only one stop pulled out is timid and cautious and does not reveal the full range of sound that is possible. 'Pulling out all the stops' when designing reviews means engaging:

  • more than one kind of intelligence

  • more than one kind of learning style

  • more than one kind of thinking style

  • more than one part of the brain and

  • more than one part of the body.

Ideally the method you design will require a rich mixture of abilities while also being in a social context that fulfills a range of personal and social needs. Needs to consider can include:

the needs for belonging and acceptance, for care and friendship, for praise and recognition, for responsibility, achievement, self-respect, creativity, new experience, connection, significance, contribution, fun and power.

Yes you can achieve all of this through reviewing – if your design encourages participants to pull out plenty of stops! Even simple designs such as Simultaneous Survey pull out most of the stops listed above. For more about how reviewing can meet a variety of needs, see Reviewing for Development: http://reviewing.co.uk/articles/reviewing-for-development.htm


Think of reviewing as a journey in which participants are searching and exploring. Many reviewing methods could be viewed as exploring aids. The traditional 'discussion host' facilitator does all the exploring through the questions they ask. Whereas well designed reviewing methods treat participants as the main explorers. For example, people can explore ...

  • by carrying out a survey

  • or by finding out what it's like to be 'in the shoes' of others

  • or by seeking patterns in events

  • or by searching for reasons why things went wrong (or right)

  • or by exploring options for their next move.

Exploring readily fits with making and using maps (such as Metaphor Maps) and with charting progress towards a goal. Ideally each participant will feel that the review itself is a journey and not simply a motionless resting point between journeys. One way of working with the idea of review as a journey is to finish a review in a way that reflects where it began and how it might continue. For ideas about matching or echoing beginnings and endings see Facilitative Frames at http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/13_2_facilitative_frames.htm#2


Perhaps you have half an idea? Present the idea to participants and they might well provide the other half. Here are some examples:

  • "I feel we could all do with some fresh air, but how can we use the time well for reviewing if we go outside?"

  • "We might make better progress in smaller groups. What could a small group realistically achieve, make or produce in 15 minutes that would assist the whole group review process?"

  • "Whenever we use the picture postcards there seems to be more energy and focus to what we are doing. Is there any way that using the pictures might help us just now?"

  • "When you return from your review in subgroups, each subgroup has 3 minutes in which to report back in a unique way that is different from every other group."

Review design is not so precious that we should do it all ourselves – leave scope and space for participants to be designers too. Participants can even be given 100% responsibility for design – but that is another story and strays beyond the frame of this article which has been to provide you with tips for creating your own designs for active reviewing.

For fuller descriptions of methods mentioned above search for the name at http://reviewing.co.uk

Roger Greenaway

After writing this article I felt I should challenge myself to design a new method using some of the tips above. The starting point was tip #6 above: 'Draw on Popular Culture'. I chose the 'chat show' format and named the method 'Couch Potatoes'. See next item below.

Up to index


This is a fun, confidence-building reviewing method for drawing attention to successes, achievements and aspirations. It is suitable for boosting the self-worth of young people.

'Couch Potatoes' is a reviewing method based on a popular TV format (tip #6) in which three 'celebrities' sit on a couch (tip #4) and and are interviewed by the chat show host. The chat show host appears to work from a set of prepared questions and the chat typically ends up with the celebrity plugging an upcoming event - such as a film, a show, a book launch, a sporting event etc.

'Couch Potatoes' fits well towards the end of a programme. Each participant is asked to design part of the process (tip #10) by preparing questions and answers for their time on the couch:
  • deciding what they would like to be famous for (or remembered for) based on some aspect of their performance (during the programme) which they are pleased about.
  • writing down a sequence of four questions they would like to be asked by the chat show host - eg about events, experiences, learning and change during the programme.
  • being prepared to make a statement plugging an upcoming event in which they will become even more famous (tip #9). This could be something in their action plan - maybe exaggerated a little.
The role of the chat show host can be played by the facilitator (tip #7) or by one of the participants (tip #10).

Careful timing will be needed if everyone is to have a turn on the couch.

With three people at a time on the couch the host can switch their attention and questions back and forth between the celebrities rather than doing a full interview with each celebrity one at a time.

This reviewing method has some important features:
  • each participant has preparation time which results in more thoughtful responses
  • each participant creates (tip #10) the tailored questions they are happy to answer which allows them control over what they disclose
  • the beginning (about celebrity) and ending (about future fame) are positive and the tone of the interview is set by the participant
  • the format gives scope for the host to improvise in tune with the spirit of the occasion  (tip #7)
  • it brings in far more dimensions than a typical self-review process
  • with the comfort of the couch, the added comfort of not being alone on the couch, the reassurance that you will not be surprised by unwelcome questions, the appreciative and fun tone set by the facilitator
It is essentially a self-review process which can be brought alive through imitating a familiar TV show format.

If you refer back to the previous article on Session Design (Active Reviewing Tips 13.5) you will see that 'Couch Potatoes' applies all 10 of those tips as well as 5 of the tips from the article on Method Design above (tips 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10)

Up to index


These are the top ten best sellers in Roger's Active Learning Bookshop for 2011. Maybe visitors to my bookshop have an eye for austerity age bargains because the total cost of all ten books is £32.20 plus postage (if you don't mind a few used copies).

1. The Zen of Groups

2. The Icebreakers Pocketbook

3. The Big Book of Team Building Games

4. Brilliant NLP

5. How to Run a Great Workshop

6. Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers

7. Art of Facilitation

8. Introducing NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming

9. Team-building Activities for Every Group

10. 100 Training Games

Average cost per top ten book before postage is 3.20 GBP
(approximately 4 EUR or 5 USD)

Do ALL your Amazon shopping (not just books) via
<http://reviewing.co.uk/reviews> and not only do YOU get a good
deal, so do CHILDREN around the world who need our help. I worked
for Save the Children for 4 years so I know about the value and
quality of the work they do. Please support them by buying your
books (and any other Amazon goods) via ROGER'S ACTIVE LEARNING

Up to index


Unchanged for 15 years and still enjoying the journey.

Reviewing Skills Training promotes active approaches to learning
and development.

The vision of Reviewing Skills Training is to be a leading UK and
international provider of services promoting the development of
imaginative and effective reviewing.

Reviewing Skills Training promotes methods of work that enable
people of all abilities to use their experiences (in life,
education, training or work) as a major source of learning,
development and empowerment.

Up to index


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.

9-13th January 2012
The Reflective Practitioner
University of Cumbria

12-13th January 2012
Facilitation Fundamentals
Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire
Freshen up your facilitation skills, increase your confidence and
have more tools and techniques to get the most out of meetings &

25-26th January 2012
Learning Technologies 2012
Olympia 2, London
120 free Seminars and a Conference that is not free.
Entry to the exhibition is FREE if you register online at:

28-29th January 2012
Active reviewing skills and methods for outdoor educators
with Roger Greenaway
Grenville House Outdoor Education Centre
Brixham, Devon TQ5 9AF

10th February 2012
METALOG® training tools Workshop
METALOG® training tools are multifaceted interaction activities
and learning projects for indoor and outdoor use

13-15th February 2012
ITOL's Certificate in Training and Development
Liverpool City Centre

24th February
Make Learning Stick
A minimum of 18 Brain Friendly, practical, easy to implement
techniques that you can actually use in your very next workshop.

2nd March 2012
METALOG® training tools Workshop
METALOG® training tools are multifaceted interaction activities
and learning projects for indoor and outdoor use

3-4th March 2012
The 6th Lindley Annual Festival of Outdoor Learning
CPD Opportunity for Outdoor Professionals, Teachers, Youth
Workers and Anyone With A General Interest In The Outdoors
Only £70 for the whole weekend

I do not guarantee anything about the quality
(or even the existence of!) events advertised in this message.
You are advised to make your own judgements about quality and
authenticity of any events listed above.

For the full Experiential-CPD Calendar see:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you would like to host an open event or arrange for an in-
house customised trainer-training programme please get in touch.
Write to: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>

Or view the sample training workshops at

Up to index
~ 7 ~  LINKS: RSAnimates in 2011

Prepare to be stimulated by these mini lectures - illustrated by
a cartoonist even quicker on the draw than Rolf Harris.

The Divided Brain
Renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how
our ‘divided brain’ has profoundly altered human behaviour,
culture and society.
October 2011

Fusing sociology, psychoanalysis and philosophy, Professor Renata
Salecl shows that individual choice is rarely based on a simple
rational decision with a predictable outcome.
June 2011

The Internet in Society: Empowering and Censoring Citizen?
Author and journalist Evgeny Morozov presents an alternative take
on ‘cyber-utopianism’ - the seductive idea that the internet
plays a largely empancipatory role in global politics.
March 2011

Language as a window into human nature
Steven Pinker shows us how the mind turns the finite building
blocks of language into infinite meanings
February 2011

Changing Education Paradigms
A speech given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned
education expert and recipient of the RSA Benjamin Franklin
October 2010


Up to index



Designing Review Sessions: 10 Tips

Topics under considerations for future issues:
* Reviewing as a takeaway skill for participants
* Evaluating Active Reviewing: how well does it work?
* Reviewing for different outcomes (using the same activities)
* Reviewing for teachers and lecturers
* Reviewing for consultants
* Reviewing one-to-one
* End of programme reviews
* Co-facilitating reviews
* The art of improvising
* Remote Reviewing
* Readers' Questions about Reviewing
* 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 - whether from the above list or on
another reviewing topic that matters to you.

If you like this issue, please tell others. If you want to suggest improvements please tell me: roger@reviewing.co.uk

Up to index
~ 9 ~ About Active Reviewing Tips

EDITOR: Dr. Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training
9 Drummond Place Lane STIRLING Scotland UK FK8 2JF
Feedback, recommendations, questions: roger@reviewing.co.uk

ARCHIVES: <http://reviewing.co.uk/ezine1/art001.htm>

The Guide to Active Reviewing is at
<a href="http://reviewing.co.uk/">http://reviewing.co.uk</a>

FROM GUESTBOOK: "I like the way you look at everything and then
return to what is simple, effective and memorable."

COPYRIGHT: Roger Greenaway 2011 Reviewing Skills Training

Each month Active Reviewing Tips brings you:

ARCHIVES     CONTENTS of this issue

 INDEX to reviewing.co.uk - resources for dynamic learning
 How to find your way around reviewing.co.uk
Copyright © Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training, who promotes ACTIVE LEARNING via