ACTIVE Reviewing Tips
for dynamic experiential learning


Ten Time-Savers for Facilitators of Learning

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

You and your participants can achieve more in less time by adapting your facilitation practice in the ways outlined below.

ARTips 14.3 Ten Time-Savers for Facilitators of Learning


Have you found the fast lane on the facilitation highway?
Or is your facilitation still in the time-consuming byways?

It is true that there are some difficult and sensitive areas of work that are more suited to the slower pace of the byways. But that is not a reason for neglecting to keep a look out for better (and faster) ways of doing the everyday tasks of a facilitator of learning.

The main article in this issue of Active Reviewing Tips gives you ten examples of how you can move from the byway to the highway.

Although I have looked at quicker ways of reviewing in previous issues, I was mostly responding to requests from practitioners who had very little review time available.

The starting point for this article is noticing how facilitators can waste valuable review time by unquestioningly following old inefficient practices.

The 19th century Scots poet Walter Wingate, in 'Highways and Byways' expressed a strong preference for the happiness of the byways: "But aye itís frae the byways comes hame the happy sang."

In the 21st century, bypasses are more popular than byways. We like short-cuts and the quickest way from A to B. Participants expect learning to happen fast - whether in the form of instant search results, accelerated learning, crash courses, intensive trainings or round-the-clock bootcamps.

I still like to spend some time on the byways, but I would soon be out of a job if I could not also show people onto the highway. This month's article gives you 10 signs or tips that are intended to help you find your way back onto the highway.

Roger Greenaway

PS If you like this issue, please tell others.
If you can suggest improvements please tell me.
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'10 Time-savers' is now available as a pdf.

In this article a 'Byway' is an old slow way to facilitate, and a 'Highway' is generally a better route choice because it saves time. Byways may still have some merits - but usually only when the main highway is blocked.
[Ed: the estimates of the time saved with each time-saver have been added since this article was first published.]

Timesaver 1

Are you on the Byway working on weaknesses?

Then join the Highway: build on strengths

Because: (according to Gallup) "People progress more rapidly in their areas of greatest talent than in their areas of weakness. Yet too many training and development approaches focus on making improvements in areas of weakness." ... "The strengths philosophy is the assertion that individuals are able to gain far more when they expend effort to build on their greatest talents than when they spend a comparable amount of effort to remediate their weaknesses." (Clifton & Harter, 2003). http://bit.ly/LJ9O7J

How to apply the strengths-based approach when reviewing.
'Back to the Future' gets people off to a sprint start because they are first asked to say what they already have that will help them on their journey towards their goal. This audit of strengths and resources helps people make good use of what they already have - offering much potential for huge time-savings. http://reviewing.co.uk/archives/art/11_1.htm#5

For more strengths-based methods see 'Reviewing Success' @ http://reviewing.co.uk/success/index.htm

But ... look out for exceptions. The Case Against Positive Thinking and Strengths-Based 'Fads': http://reviewing.co.uk/success/too-much-success.htm

Estimate of time saved: 50%

Timesaver 2

Are you on the Byway asking people to describe in words?

Then join the Highway: ask people to use pictures as well as words.

Because: "A picture is worth a thousand words" (according to an old saying)

How to apply this principle when reviewing. See 'Reviewing with Pictures' @ http://reviewing.co.uk/pictures/intro.htm

But ... it can sometimes take a long time to find or create the right picture.

Estimate of time saved: 10%

Timesaver 3

Are you still on the Byway asking people to describe in words?

Then join the Highway: ask people to demonstrate through action.

Because: "Actions speak louder than words" (according to another old saying)

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
See 'Action Replay' @ http://reviewing.co.uk/stories/replay.htm
For more methods see 'Active Reviewing' @ http://reviewing.co.uk/actrev.htm

But ... not every review topic relates to action and performance.
Even though some internal processes can be explored through action - using 'inner team' players or 'constellation' methods.

Estimate of time saved: 25%

Timesaver 4

On the Byway facilitating a reflective group discussion?

Then join the Highway: provide time out with a learning buddy

Because: (compared to group discussion) sharing reflection time with a conversation partner results in:
- higher levels of participation
- more 'me time'
- greater personalisation and relevance of learning
- more confidentiality (if needed and agreed)
And you can always ask for a succinct summary afterwards if the paired work is of real interest for the whole group.

How to apply this principle when reviewing:
See Reviewing for Two @

But ... It is good to provide a variety of opportunities for reflection eg alone, in pairs, and in groups - so do not depend too much on any one strategy, whichever is your favourite one.

Estimate of time saved: 50% (less if it is a small reflective group)

Timesaver 5

On the Byway talking with any partner?

Then join the Highway: help people find the most suitable conversation partner.

Because: random pairings of people may not be well matched for learning together. So ensure there is a sound and deliberate basis for any two people coming together for learning.

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
- Allow participants to choose learning partners.
- Allow participants to change learning partners.
- Suggest a rationale for choosing: eg the person you were working with most closely during the previous activity, or the person who has expressed a similar point of view or preference.
- If the conversation is about transfer of learning, it makes sense for participants to pair up with someone they can readily maintain contact with back in the workplace.

But ... The random and frequent changing of partners (as happens in 'Brief Encounters', for example) can be a good group building strategy.

Estimate of time saved: from 5% to 95% depending on how dysfunctional a random pairing would have been.

Timesaver 6

On the Byway providing feedback that is not wanted?

Then join the Highway: provide feedback that is asked for.

Because: people are more interested, more receptive and less
defensive when they are clear about the kind of feedback they

How to apply this principle when reviewing:

But ... People do not always know what they want and they could miss out on valuable feedback if they only get what they ask for. So your overall purpose might be to build a learning climate in which participants are generally more open to giving and receiving feedback.

Estimate of time saved: up to 50%, but as little as 0% where people already welcome any kind of well-intentioned feedback.

Timesaver 7

On the Byway allowing a few people to dominate a review discussion?

Then join the Highway: create subgroups on review topics they wish to discuss.

Because: when people do not participate the value of the learning process is much reduced for everyone - especially for the non-participants.

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
Find out what people want to talk about and create smaller groups around those topics. If a topic would benefit from hearing everyone's views, then the people who have chosen to specialise in that topic can conduct a survey at a time when members of the original (bigger) group are free to participate. This is most easily managed if every subgroup wishes to carry out a survey - for which the Simultaneous Survey process is useful. See http://bit.ly/N0JACD

But ... There are other good ways to respond to the dominance of a few, but if you find yourself forever coaxing responses from the quieter participants, this is a strong sign that you need to change the structure rather than over-coax. Other solutions are described in 'Encouraging Participation' @

Estimate of time saved: divide the number of group members (say 10) by the number of non-participants (say 7) and multiply by 100 = 70%.

Timesaver 8

On the Byway imposing a pre-planned linear sequence?

Then join the Highway: play the Joker - skip a stage or follow the energy.

Because: the planned sequence was your best guess about what would be most suitable, but while you are implementing your plan you (or the participants) may come up with much better ideas as new problems or new opportunities arise. Some of these opportunities might take the form of short cuts that speed up the learning process for some or all participants.

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
Start with a sequence in mind, but above all keep the purpose in mind. Remember that the sequence was a means to an end. Do not start a session with only one plan - always have a few alternatives and choices ready. If you are giving a lecture you can just stick to your script, but if your session focuses on participants, their experiences and their reflections, then you are operating in the domain of emergent learning for which there is no predetermined pathway for either content or process.

But ... I did recently write a series of three articles about designing reviews: there is always a balance to strike between design and flexibility. See Designs for Reviewing @ http://bit.ly/LiFx0f
& The Art of Reviewing: intuition and creativity in facilitation

Estimate of time saved: 20% - 80% depending on the degree to which the original plan happens to fit with the emerging situation and opportunities.

Timesaver 9

On the Byway asking everyone for their thoughts on an issue?

Then join the Highway: create a large spectrum or diagram and ask each person to show their position by where they stand.

Because: this gives a quick snapshot of everyone's position and the pattern this reveals guides the rest of the process. For example, if everyone is huddled together there may not be a lot to talk about. Whereas if everyone is scattered there would be a wide range of interesting views on the topic. Once the facilitator can see the pattern, there is plenty of scope for making this a more efficient and interesting process

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
Activity Map

But ... Some issues are more complex than can be represented on a single spectrum (Horseshoe) or in a 2x2 grid (Activity Map) - so there is scope for experimenting with different kinds of mapping processes to discover (and work with) the range of views in a group.

Estimate of time saved: subtract 1 minute from the time it would otherwise have taken for everyone to declare their position and work out the percentage of time saved - perhaps 90% or higher.

Timesaver 10

On the Byway every group/subgroup reporting back in the big group?

Then join the Highway: ask for an exhibition of learning with headlines on display.

Because: reporting back in the big group can be very repetitive. An exhibition changes the dynamics and allows learners to visit the exhibits of greatest interest and engage in conversations about them.

How to apply this principle when reviewing.
Think through the purpose of any sharing session. If you expect the small group learning process to be more valuable for participants than the large group sharing process, then ensure that this is consistent with the time allocated to each. Also consider the possibility of missing out any large group process - or concluding with an exhibition.

But ... Sometimes you need large group events to create a sense of community and common purpose. If this is the case, then this should be your starting point rather than trying to create a sense of community by everyone sitting for a long time listening to a series of repetitive presentations.

Estimate of time saved: the difference between touring an exhibition (maybe 5 minutes) and listening to several presentations (maybe 20 minutes) = 75%.

The 19th century Scots poet Walter Wingate, in 'Highways and Byways' expressed a strong preference for the happiness of the byways: "But aye itís frae the byways comes hame the happy sang."

In the 21st century bypasses are more popular than byways. We like short-cuts and the quickest way from A to B. I hope this article will help you to help your participants achieve their goals sooner.

Feedback welcome!

Roger Greenaway
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~ 3 ~ RESOURCES: More Picture Cards for Reviewing

Following my mention of Toon Cards in Active Reviewing Tips 14.1 on Reviewing with Cards, I have come across several other sources of picture cards suitable for reviewing. If you have experience of using these card collections (or any other collections) I am sure other readers will be interested in your experiences. For example: Are they good value? How do you like to use them? What new uses have you developed? Please write to roger@reviewing.co.uk

Conversation Starter & Reflection Tool

"This carefully selected collection of unique images captures a groupís attention and inspires meaningful reflection and conversation. The postcard collection is popular with teachers, counselors, and group facilitators for helping individuals and groups process specific experiences. They can be used as a great introduction activity or for group closing activities. The postcards have been used as a tool to help participants resolve conflict or establish group norms. Postcards also make great creative writing or journaling prompts for self-reflection."

from Iniva Creative Learning

What do you feel?
"A learning resource for stimulating young peopleís creative exploration, developing self-awareness and understanding adolescence. 20 thought provoking images of contemporary art, each with a series of questions and prompts, help to facilitate important and honest conversations with young people...."

Who are you? Where are you going?
"These cards provide images of contemporary art that support children and adults to gain deeper insights into their identity, backgrounds, values and attitudes. Together with questions and ideas, it is particularly valuable for those coping with change and transition..."

from Ernesto Yturralde & Asociados

"The Debriefing Cards provide your learning-partners a symbolic opportunity for a creative self-expression, metaphors creations, encouraging more participation in debriefing sessions. The Debriefing Cards provide many options for process feelings, activity exploration, and debriefing of course."

"Each different deck with a set of 50 Processing and Debriefing cards are designed for Experiential Facilitators, Team Building & Outdoor Trainers, Soft-Skills Trainers, Teachers, Coaches, Psychologists, Challenge Courses Specialists, Camp Counselors, Therapists, Sports and Recreation Program Leaders."

A picture is worth a thousand words. Dialoogle is creative tool to kick-start, renew, diversify and qualify communication in dialogues and group conversations.

Dialoogling makes use of a series of picture cards with motives created to stimulate associations, inspire creativity, and facilitate versatile linguistic formulation of feelings, perceptions and ideas.

If you have used these card collections (or any other cards) I am sure that other Active Reviewing Tips readers will be interested in your experiences. For example:
- Are they good value?
- How do you like to use them?
- What new uses have you developed?
Please write to roger@reviewing.co.uk

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Added since publication:
In 'Gentle Interventions: Tools and Tips for Coaching Teams' Ernie Turner describes a simple time-saving technique he calls
'Stop / Reflect / Write / Report'  (SRWR for short).
Ernie witnessed a group of 5 people who were expected to reflect and report back in 5 minutes: the process was dominated by one individual who appointed himself to speak for the group and simply repeated his own views. This gave Ernie the chance to show them a more inclusive alternative: SRWR (which is also a nice alternative to brainstorming)


Making Games Work: More Effective Learning in Teams
by Nick Smith

An extract from my review of this book appears on its back cover:

'Making Games Work' fills a significant gap among books about team activities. It is a plainly written guide from one practitioner to another about how to get the best value from team games. After reading this book, I am confident that your tried and tested activities will be getting a makeover or two.

Buy direct from the author at
or via Amazon - you will find a link to Making Games Work in the
top row of books at:

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

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~ 5 ~ ARCHIVE: More time-saving tips when reviewing

Reviewing when short of time

Quick Reviews

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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.

For the latest listing see: http://reviewing.co.uk/experiential-CPD-training-calendar.htm

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

My travels in 2012 will take me to these countries. If you wish
to host a reviewing skills workshop in one of these countries in
the month's shown, you may be in luck! Please check the details
or get in touch.

June: Copenhagen, Denmark
July: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
July/Aug: Santiago, Chile
Aug: Singapore
Sept: Whittier, Alaska, USA
Oct: England and Wales
Nov: Copenhagen, Denmark
Nov: Stockholm, Sweden

Write to: <roger@reviewing.co.uk>
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Reviewing without a Facilitator

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

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~ 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 2012 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