Meaningful Learning and Efficient Teaching Tips

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Graphic Review

By Soren Breiting*, Danish University of Education, Copenhagen.

What is Graphic Review ?

A graphic review is a summary of the content of a part of a training event, like a part of a workshop, a course, a seminar, a presentation or an excursion. It is used to remind all participants of the content of the programme they have been through as a background for the next part of the training. It is prepared by a few participants and the process of using graphic reviews is a nice example of a ‘learner centered teaching’ technique linked to a collaborative learning process.

I first developed the idea when I was planning a course for professionals involved in the development of environmental education in South Africa. All participants should be able to speak English, but I had the feeling that communication could be difficult if it was solely depending on proper English language skills. Accordingly I wanted to come up with a tool that could help participants reflect on their learning and at the same time give me as a teacher feed back on how the participant’s interpretation went on. It was mandatory that it should be regarded as ‘fun’, stimulating and encouraging for the participants.

From the first experience the feedback was very good, and the used format for graphic review seemed to fulfill the expectations. Since then I have made use of graphic reviews in many settings with very different kinds of audience. Now we have a refined procedure including the first introduction to it that seems to function well in general.

I am sure many other educators are using similar techniques, but anyway here is the basic description building on my experience of what we call ‘Graphic Review’.

The whole thing is much more simple in practice than when you have to read about it. Sorry we have to wait with the illustrations!

How to prepare Graphic Reviews ?

Let us take a typical format for training like a 3 days workshop. During the introduction to the workshop the first day the participants are introduced to graphic reviews (see later for tips about how to do this efficiently).

Normally I ask for volunteers to sign up to make graphic reviews in teams of 2-3 participants. Each team should cover like a half-day programme. Often we use a third team for the evening programme.

The preparation of the graphic review by the team means

  • To put the content of the programme on an overhead transparent with special emphasis on representing ideas and important points of view and information in a graphic format, and only ad words when needed for proper communication (e.g. names and facts), in cases symbols etc. can’t do the work.
  • The team designs the sheet as a draft on paper and makes the flow of events clear.
  • Maybe the team makes a small drawing in the upper left corner showing that at 8.30 o’clock a named person introduces the training. Such a drawing can be useful for participants to be reminded of the event, but it is important that the graphic review isn’t just showing events but uses the indication of events to highlight the content: main ideas, point of view and other kinds of information there might be important to be reminded about.
  • When the draft on paper is prepared the team draw the graphic review on the overhead sheet. Here different colors are used to highlight and to differentiate the content.
  • We make use of fine line permanent OH pens. The experience is that fine line pens invite to much more detailed and reflected final graphic reviews, and we use permanent pens because we will normally keep the sheets until we have the next training, may be half a year later.
  • There is a point in having only one sheet to summarize the content of the programme. This forces the team to select the most important aspects, and it is suitable enough for the review process.
    We indicate the date, time and if needed the venue, plus the names of the team on the OH sheet.
  • Avoid, that the task of making graphics becomes an obstacle for some one to be fully confident in the making of a graphic review. The challenging aspect of the task should be focused on how to convey the main ideas and content, and not to the artistic quality of the graphics.

How to present graphic reviews ?

The flow through the presentation is very important to understand. To review a day’s programme will normally take 20-30 mins, all included.

I normally schedule the presentation of the graphic reviews from the day before (or last training) just after we start the programme in the morning. In this way the graphic review process will help bring the content and thoughts from the training before into the minds of the participants for the new day's programme.

The flow follows these steps:

1. The team puts their OH transparent on the OH projector and keeps quiet. The audience is allowed time enough to go through the graphic review and make their own interpretation of what they see and read. During this phase the teacher should signal a genuine interest in the presented graphic review.

2. The team explains in proper detail what they have found of value to incorporate in their graphic review.

3. The team (or the chair person) asks for comments from the audience, addressing aspects to have clarified from the team, missing points from the last programme or possible misunderstandings.

4. All kinds of comments should be regarded as a help to the team, and the whole process should be regarded as a collective effort to have the best record of the programme made available for the future use of all.

5. The teacher will through this feed back session have fine possibilities to raise important issues and correct misunderstandings and omissions in a constructive way.

6. The comments should be regarded exactly as that, i.e. that the team will make use of them in their own understanding and afterwards finalize their graphic review. Please never have any corrections happen directly on the OH projector during the presentation. In the spirit of helping each other comments on spelling belong to a ‘private’ session with the team after the presentation.

7. Before the workshop finish all participants should be provided with a copy of all graphic reviews for their files.

How to introduce graphic reviews to a new audience ?

We have found that the most efficient way to introduce the idea of how to produce a proper graphic review is as follows.

Take a very good graphic review from another training event or produce a demonstration example of similar quality. Produce another graphic review about exactly the same training event, but let in this second version the events play the total dominating role. At the same time these to examples will show two ways of economize with the available space on the OH sheet.

Than introduce the first well-done graphic review to the new audience by simply explaining all the content and what it refers to.
Afterwards show the simple one that only displays the events and not the ideas etc. And raise the question about which of these two versions will best help participants to remember the content.

Some variations of using graphic reviews

In the mentioned example the graphic reviews are produced in the evening of the volunteer team every day. But graphic reviews are really fine in normal school situations, too, as long as they are not used too frequently.

They are especially fruitful when a lot of unconventional things happen during the teaching. It could be special days, excursions, fieldtrips, visits to the school etc. that needs time for reflection and further processing.

But anyhow there are very good results of using graphic reviews in for example foreign language teaching, too, without any special events. In such cases the pupils are expected to make their own graphic review on a single page of paper. And only a sample of pupils work will be presented to the class.

Pitfalls using graphic reviews

Take some of these pitfalls into account when using graphic reviews

  • Avoid – as mentioned – to focus on the artistic quality of the graphics.
  • Until participants are familiar with the format it is a good idea during the presentation that words put into the graphic review are discussed a little among the audience how they might be represented by graphics as an alternative. Many can in this way be engaged in the creative process of thinking in symbols and graphic representations.
  • Most will in the beginning put too much attention to representing the events, compared to using the indication of events to highlight important ideas and concepts.
  • Avoid being too critical during the presentation session encouraging the learners to be the one who give the comments.
  • On the other hand it is important for the teacher not to be too shy when important aspects are missing etc. in the presented graphic reviews.
  • Don’t make use of graphic review too often in normal school situations to avoid that the concentration and refreshing effect of this teaching method will disappear.

Why is graphic review a good example of learner centered teaching

Graphic reviews can be seen as good examples of learner centered teaching from a number of perspectives:

  • The production of a graphic review will rely on the personal interpretation of the learner. It is encouraged that the learner links the events and content of the training to own interpretation and include feelings and emotions (without letting them be dominating).
  • There will be a focus on linking concrete elements to theory formation and conceptual development.
  • It supports a contextual learning climate.
  • It combines a number of ‘intelligences’ and thereby gives the learner a variety of options to support the learning.
  • The whole format supports reflection.
  • The format encourage learning and metacognition
  • The process balance own concept development with interaction with peers and the teacher.

An analysis of the basic idea will show that the helpfulness of using graphic review fits to many aspects of meaningful learning and social constructivism. And at the same time it can be applied to the most traditional format for information dissemination, like presentations and lectures.

Soren Breiting is an Associate Professor at The Department for Curriculum Research, The Danish University of Education, in Copenhagen.

He has worked intensively with the improvement of teaching and learning situations in schools though educational research and development including teacher training in Denmark, Scandinavia, Hungary, Southern Africa and latest in Thailand. Most work has been related to democratic environmental education, education for sustainable development, the concept action competence, science education and cross-curricular and interdisciplinary teaching. Teaching methods and learner centered techniques have been of special interest, like storyline method and concept mapping, as well as how to improve the learners outcome of excursions and fieldwork. To mention a few projcets: the MUVIN Project, SEET Programme and the ITMF programme of ICT and science education, see example: . See also Miljøedderkoppen and environmental education .

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