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How Active Reviewing and Reflection

Support Learning and Change

by Roger Greenaway, Reviewing Skills Training

Active and creative approaches to reviewing create good opportunities for reflection, communication, learning and development because they can readily:

  • engage and develop a wide range of learning style preferences

  • connect the worlds of thinking, talking and doing

  • produce holistic, dynamic and focused learning

  • access intuitive and tacit knowledge

  • enrich the experience of learning from experience

  • enable some testing of ideas within the learning process

  • increase the range of strategies for the effective transfer of learning

Whenever people get stuck in the ruts and clichés encountered in verbal modes of review, introducing active and creative modes can help to free up the process: the opportunity to think and communicate in pictures or patterns or through mime, movement or drama or through verse, music or metaphor provides alternative modes that help people get unstuck. Participants discover new ways of thinking, new ways of expressing themselves and new ways of understanding and explaining things. It is true that new angles can be discovered through astute questioning in all-talk reviews, but new angles can often be more readily produced by changing the ways in which people create, tell and compare their stories about their experiences. For example:

For sharing an experience: the learner (storyteller) reflects on their experience by making a storyline showing their ups and downs. The storyline becomes a visual aid that allows the audience a glimpse of the big picture before hearing the detail of the ups and downs.

For talking about group dynamics: the learner arranges and rearranges objects into patterns showing how roles, relationships, and group performance have been changing.

For examining critical moments: the learner recreates critical moments through action replay. Typically, participants replay themselves. New information emerges when the replay is paused and people are interviewed about what they were doing, feeling and thinking at the time. This re-staging of key moments tends to bring out greater honesty and understanding.

For exploring future scenarios: the learner walks through a map of past journeys and new possibilities, explores new routes and discovers various consequences.

It is difficult to achieve this quality of reflection when following the more passive traditions of private reflection or group discussion. Fruitful private reflection requires a high level of mental discipline that includes sustained curiosity, accurate recall, high self-awareness, the ability to see other perspectives and plenty of imagination. More perspectives are clearly available in group discussions, but when people sit in the same chair all the time, it can look and feel as if everyone is stuck in the same place – both physically and mentally. Whether reflecting alone or in groups, active and creative methods increase engagement and movement and sustain the dynamics from which change is more likely to arise.

Successful transfer of learning will also be more likely if the review process has been engaging and holistic. Not only is such learning more reliable, it is also more aligned, more integrated and more ready-to-use.

Source and copyright: Roger Greenaway writing in Experiential Learning: A Handbook for Education, Training and Coaching by Colin Beard & John Wilson, 2013. Kogan Page

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