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5 great ways of reviewing experiential learning activities

metalog review

Careful design of review processes in experiential learning is essential if learning objectives are to be achieved. It is also crucial that you make reviews active, creative and varied throughout a learning programme so that people don’t get bored or come to dread reviews. Here are some of my favourite methods of reviewing experiential tasks, tried and tested over 17 years.

1. Laminated review cards for small group discussion

This is a simple idea that takes some thinking through and some work before the programme but will make your life easy on the day! The set of questions that you put together will enable people to learn without your input and you don’t even necessarily need to be party to their answers so this is particularly good when there are lots of them and only one of you! The questions work best if they follow a sequence of collecting information about their experience during the task, followed by questions that enable transfer of learning and insights into their own experience and working environment, followed by questions which seek to develop discussion into the linked subject matter of the programme.

These questions need to exactly fit what you’re trying to achieve with the group and what subjects you’re using the experiential intervention to get in to, here is an example set from using CultuRallye:

  1. What happened when a new person came to your table?
  2. How did the group respond to their arrival?
  3. How did the group respond to their performance?
  4. How did the group respond differently when the second person came?
  5. What were the unspoken rules that developed on your table?
  6. What kind of culture developed on your table and how did that differ from other tables?
  7. What does this remind you of in terms of your own experiences with different organisational cultures?
  8. What kind of culture do you want in your new team?

This particular set of questions led on to working with a team to develop a team charter.

2. Spokes*

Place something in the centre of the room and ask the participants to stand in a circle around it. Explain that where they are standing represents 0/10 and the central object represents 10/10. As them to physically position themselves on their own ‘spoke according to their answer to your question without speaking. Then encourage them to share their score with someone standing close to them, giving reasons and a justification for their score. Repeat this two or three times with different questions and then allow this to lead naturally into a whole group discussion. Example questions:

  • On a scale of 0-10, how effectively did you work as a team on that task?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how innovative were you in the solving of that problem?
  • On a scale of 0-10, how pivotal were you as an individual to the success of the task?

This works particularly well as a review following Tower of Power as you have the perfect prop for this review in the form of a wooden disc and lots of strings making visual spokes!

3. Emotion Card review

Start a review by inviting participants to choose a picture and share it with a partner or a small group. The review would then need to develop into a discussion about the relevance of reflections to the participants’ working environment. Some example questions that could kick off this review include:

  • Choose a card, which represents your feelings during that exercise…
  • Choose a card, which represents something you learned as a result of that experience…
  • Choose a card, which represents how the group operated during that activity…
  • Which picture reflects a state you were in during the learning project?
  • What was helpful during the learning project? Which picture best reflects this?

For more ideas about using Emotion Cards, see my article ‘10 ways to use picture cards in your workshops and coaching sessions’.

4. Wandering review

Arm each participant with a Mr Sketch marker and encourage them to wander around a variety of flipcharts with key relevant review questions written on them ideally with a visual image of the review topics on them as well. Once all the sheets have been populated, assign small groups to a sheet each and get them to report back the most important thing that happened and the most important learning point arising from that question and how it ought to be applied in their environment. Allow one minute per question. Whatever you do, do not allow groups to simply read out what is on their flipchart. That would mean that a deeper level of processing the activity would not be being reached and it would therefore be a waste of time! After the minute long summaries, allow the discussion to develop and potentially some actions to work their way into a plan.

5. Happy Charts*

Charts enable a simple visual representation of how things change over the course of an exercise or task. They also allow differing viewpoints amongst group members to be explored.

Encourage groups to draw a simple chart of their experiences during an experiential exercise. Each individual draws their won line on the chart and then the group discuss reasons, similarities and differences. This can then lead into discussions about what they gained from the exercise and how it relates to their workplace.

When I use this, the x axis usually represents time and the y axis could be (depending upon the subject matter of the programme):

  1. Motivation / engagement level of individuals
  2. Quality of communication
  3. Amount of innovation
  4. Degree of cohesion of the group

As I write this I realise that there are at least 15 review techniques that I use really regularly so I think I’m going to need to write at least one follow up to this article!

The important thing is choosing the right review for the right task and situation, so get in touch if you need any help with this in a particular situation.

Happy Reviewing.

*Original ideas from the amazing Dr Roger Greenaway who long ago impressed upon me the importance of active and creative reviewing techniques. Seewww.reviewing.co.uk for more of his work

Shirley is a first-rate organiser of our regional Training Journal meetings. She's a natural facilitator with a warm and genuine style. Her infectious enthusiasm is always focused on ensuring events are packed with learning and fun. Shirley's great to work with.

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John Addy
HRD Manager at Redcats UK

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