Draw to Learn - A guide to create curious & collaborative learning cultures using Graphic Facilitati

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“A must-read if you are designing or delivering learning experiences in the 21st century.” – Jean-Luc Kastner, Organisational Consultant, France

A guide for teachers and leaders who aspire to create curious and collaborative learning cultures using Graphic Facilitation


toolsforschools.dk info@toolsforschools.dk Published by Tools For Schools (Nanna Frank & Anne Madsen) Written by Nanna Frank & Anne Madsen Illustration and visual concepts: Sarah Egbert Eiersholt, Anne Madsen & Nanna Frank Editing: James Ede Book design, frontpage design, photography and photo editing: Johan Rutherhagen Photo on page 32, 53, 58, 66, 85, 122, 129, 135, 136, 156, 160, 200: Shutterstock.com Photo on page 125, 146: Stock.adobe.com Photo on other pages: Johan Rutherhagen Proofreading: Anja Viberg & James Ede Translation: Lærke Kersten & James Ede Print 2020: IngramSpark ISBN: 978-87-972356-0-7 Second edition, 2020

You are free to: Share – copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format. Adapt – remix, transform, and build upon the material. The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms. Under the following terms: Attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. NonCommercial – You may not use the material for commercial purposes. ShareAlike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original. No additional restrictions – You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.


“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.�


Malala Yousafzai








Defining Meaningful Learning Communities A definition of the concept Meaningful Learning Communities and an introduction to a number of theories to explain why it makes sense to work in this way.


This is Graphic Facilitation


Graphic Facilitation as a concept. An explanation of what lies behind the terms “graphic” and “facilitation”.


Stories from schools


A number of cases from schools to illustrate how Graphic Facilitation can be used to support learning and Meaningful Learning Communities.


A Systemic Perspective


Introducing two mental models that support a shared understanding and a shared language for working with Meaningful Learning Communities.


Developing a Meaningful Learning Community


Describing the Six Practices that support the work and development of Meaningful Learning Communities. Read about how these Six Practices can be applied in everyday life and work, and how they can help us to navigate and thrive in the inherent complexity of school life.


Applying the Six Practices in schools


A case illustrating how Graphic Facilitation and the Six Practices can be used at all levels in the school.


A structure that can hold both chaos and order


The foundation for process and learning design. This structure describes three phases, each of which involves a different way of thinking and acting.


How to practice Graphic Facilitation


Diving into Graphic Facilitation as a tool. You are provided with inspiration to strengthen your competencies within Graphic Facilitation whether you are new or experienced.




A library containing icons and examples of visual templates and presentations. With this icon library we want to make it easy for you to practise using visuals.

Final reflections



The leader


“I am lost, but hey, I am going at a good speed� This quote from comic strip character, Dennis the Menace, is an accurate de-

scription of the experience one can have as a student, teacher or headteacher in the educational system today. The pace is fast. The daily work is characterised by paradoxes, choices and a search for the right course to follow. This leads to uncertainty and insecurity which ultimately can come at a cost to learning, thriving, and achieving results in our schools. It is essential that we find and apply strategies, methodologies and tools to help us navigate towards an ever-moving target. Ours is a demanding task in which we are required to combine focus and stability with change and innovation all at once. It is exactly in this territory that this book has something to offer. It is about how we create, sustain and facilitate Meaningful Learning Communities both for the students and for teachers and headteachers in our schools and institutions. Over the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure of working with Tools for Schools, engaging them in work to establish Meaningful Learning Communities within the organisation that I lead on a daily basis and also in projects involving other schools and educational institutions. Time and again I have experienced how the learning community is the very foundation for learning, innovating and co-creating new tools and methods for the benefit of young people’s learning and growth. Graphic Facilitation enables us to visualise our processes and create a clear picture of where we are going and why. It is a visual bridge between thoughts and actions and offers a narrative which becomes our shared course. Docu6

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mentation along the way helps us to look back and is an essential method for ongoing reflection on our learning, co-creation and results. In a near future the world will be led by sense-makers, people who are able to put the right information together at the right time, think critically and make informed choices. We need to revisit and reevaluate the relevance of our current subjects, re-organise the traditional disciplines and add new relevant disciplines. We need to focus on holistic learning; moving from a narrow focus on knowledge to include social skills, the art of collaboration and meta-learning. Finally we will need the courage to innovate, to let go of the safety that the existing system offers, and move towards a system which serves us better in uncertain circumstances. We must acknowledge that we live in a world where we produce the same amount of information in two days as was produced from the origin of mankind until 2002, and where the amount of new science and evidence increases by 12% p.a. In that world, visible and concrete landmarks for individual and institutional identity are essential; not as static signposts, but as visual and dynamic narratives that support us with the knowledge of where we are now and where we are heading, while enabling us to go on expeditions to explore and learn new things, being curious yet critical and making meaningful choices in a wise way. Enjoy the reading ‌ and the drawing!

Anders Ladegaard, Head of Youth & Education, Fredericia municipality, Denmark preface



The teacher

“Just do it!” In 2010 I was invited to participate in a Graphic Facilitation workshop. It sound-

ed like an interesting and creative course. I remember thinking: “A drawing workshop – great!” The reality was that this course brought about a shift in my whole perception and practice as a teacher. Graphic Facilitation offered me a tool and changed the way I thought about my pedagogical and didactic practice. It gave me a method for designing the teaching moments and classes that I appreciate the most; the ones where the students are awake, present and motivated because they participate. In these classes we create shared clarity about what we are working towards, how we work, and what we are learning on the way. Where goals and processes are visible to the students, they feel empowered in the understanding of what they are learning. The last words from Anne and Nanna in the workshop were “Just do it” – so that was what I did. The following day, I started with an agenda, written on the blackboard for my 3rd graders. I populated the agenda with simple icons for the different activities. Without needing to call for the students attention, the class focused on my drawing and started to question. “What is she drawing?” one asked “Yeaah! We are going to work in groups, because it’s four people together”, another one continued. Since then, I never stopped. The visual language can be used in all grades and is a powerful tool for both teachers and students to generate curiosity and comfort in the learning processes. I often use Graphic Facilitation when starting up a new project in class. I draw up a visual presentation with goal, purpose, activities and timeline and hang it up in the class prior to the start of the project to stimulate curiosity and allow the students to engage with the upcoming project at their own pace. I have also found Graphic Facilitation very useful in collaboration with colleagues. At one point I joined a team of four colleagues, knowing that we were individually very different people. How could we appreciate and make 8

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those differences visible? How could we work to each other’s strengths? Who should host a conversation like that without having the headteacher there as a natural authority? I designed two visual templates for our first meeting. One for individual preparation prior to the meeting and one that we filled out collectively during the meeting; mapping our strengths and challenges as a team. My experience was a profound and productive meeting in which all voices were heard and where personal as well as professional competencies were surfaced. From there it was easy to assign roles and responsibilities based on a shared understanding of competence and preference in the team. The templates are great as “the invisible facilitator’, when there is no formal leadership in the group. Visual templates have also become an important tool for me and my students in conversations around learning and evaluation. When students are offered a clear structure, with freedom to contribute their own thoughts and ideas in a colourful and playful way, it increases motivation. It also provides an overview of what we will be covering during the conversation, giving students time to think and prepare and capable of leading the conversation with me using the visual template as a common reference. Nanna Frank and Anne Madsen introduced me to the world of Graphic Facilitation and provided me with a foundation. Here they have gathered their wisdom, ready to be explored, practised and translated into your daily work. The book is a foundation, offering insight and – if you need it – encouragement to start visualising. It gives me great joy because it means that there are now even better preconditions for high quality learning. Enjoy the read, remember to celebrate the small steps and above all, just do it! It is only in the application that you will experience the true value that Graphic Facilitation brings to learning. June Kromann, Teacher & Graphic Facilitator, Aalborg municipality, Denmark preface



The authors

On a Voyage of Discovery We have spent quite some time finding metaphors that reflect the many facets of a school: size, stakeholders and context. Educational institutions such as schools are organisations that are always in movement. They have to constantly relate to new conditions in the form of political objectives, availability of resources and social tendencies. They also need to respond to key stakeholders, such as parents, students, employees, administrators, etc. A theme we kept returning to was the ocean with its depths. We were inspired by teachers’ and headteachers’ descriptions of how they see their school and we began to view the school as a large ship with the activities of the school as a voyage of discovery. You can already begin to think what kind of ship your school would be; a heavily loaded container ship, sailboat or another kind of ship. That is, of course, up to you to define.

WHY USE A METAPHOR? Using metaphors is a central part of Graphic Facilitation. It provides us with an opportunity to look at familiar situations in a new light. It also offers a rich vocabulary of words and images that we can use to talk about the situation or context in a different way. This can help surface clarity we weren’t able to see previously. In this book we consider the school to be a large sailing ship. As a student, you board this ship for a ten-year journey of discovery. Teachers and school staff are on this ship for a shorter or longer period of time and are an important part of defining the students’ and their colleagues’ journey of discovery (Fig. 0.1, page 12). On board the ship there are many smaller rowboats which can be used for different purposes. The large ship is able to sail longer distances than the smaller boats and is more resilient in turbulent weather. Rowboats are faster to manoeuvre than the big ship. It can be a good idea to use them when going on smaller group excursions such as a trip with the class, the team or a group of staff. It is important that the rowboats always navigate according to the ship and never go too far away from the ship that they are unable to return. At times the ship will be docked in a harbour but most often it is the smaller rowboats that go to check out a chosen harbour. In the harbours we can gain new perspectives, competencies and knowledge. We can, for example, visit subject-specific harbours such as the harbour of mathematics, more general subject harbours such as the harbour of entrepreneurship, or we can visit development harbours such as the “professional development” harbour. Every harbour offers different temptations and treasures and it is up to every 10

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expedition team to find out what they need to bring back, individually and collectively, to the community onboard the ship. The ship has a number of sails. The sails represent the focus areas and priorities over the course of a year. Some sails are big and essential to the operation of the ship, others are small and interchangeable, but they all play their unique role in maintaining the course and moving the ship towards the agreed destination. We have to organise ourselves well so that our experience of being and working on the ship is rewarding. We also need to maintain focus on our goals so that the ship doesn’t just move in whichever direction the wind blows. We must step in to play our part, accepting the different tasks and responsibilities that come with being part of the onboard community. The culture and structure onboard the ship determine whether a culture of meaningful learning and collaboration is possible. If successful, the result is well-rounded individuals and communities. This is the Meaningful Learning Community. To ensure that we act as a Meaningful Learning Community we have chosen to define one of the sails on the ship as the practice of Meaningful Learning Communities.

It is this sail that we give most attention to in his book. The other sails we invite you to define for yourself. Each school will probably have different sails on their ship. To ensure that we function as a Meaningful Learning Community on a journey of discovery such as this, it is essential to communicate with each other and to document our experiences along the way. For this purpose we use Graphic Facilitation as our experience has shown it to be a highly effective tool for reflection, communication and documentation. We hope you will enjoy the journey with us as we visit different harbours of meaning, learning, community and visualisation.

Happy reading!

Anne Madsen & Nanna Frank preface







Weʻre heading in the right direction, friends



Good work, team we are approaching our destination


If you think physics are boring, look at this!

Team 7th grade 12

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Team 3rd grade




Stay calm, we will manage


Teachers parents





Map out your learning journey


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All aboard!

Like any organisation, running a school in today’s world demands the ability to navigate change. It requires new ways of thinking, communicating and organising work. New ways of perceiving and understanding the way we learn and teach. New ways of understanding the work of a teacher, a headteacher, an institution and an organisation. Change is a natural and inevitable part of personal and professional life. At times we consciously bring about change and sometimes change is imposed or invited from elsewhere. No matter how change comes about, it is our experience that more often than not, we are challenged when we are required to change, develop and practice new ways of working, whether in the classroom, the staffroom or the leadership team. Let’s look at what it takes to create Meaningful Learning Communities; trust, open communication, generative collaboration and great results, at all levels in the school.

We will look at the following questions:

How can I build trust and confidence among staff and students to engage with both organisational and subject specific learningrelated questions and challenges?


draw to learn

How can I clarify objectives and measure progress, both in the classroom and on an organisational level?

How do I harvest learning and share knowledge about what works for individual students, teachers and staff teams.

How can I support students and staff members in reflecting on their own learning and engaging in the processes of learning?

What is needed to create optimal conditions for teachers and head­teachers to develop new practices and to become role models for a culture of co-creation and constructive feedback?

We offer concrete tools for creating and communicating with great clarity and documenting processes and results in an inspiring format using Graphic Facilitation. You will also find inspiration and methods for inviting participation among students and colleagues to promote shared ownership and commitment for learning and change. This is essential if we are to have any chance of overcoming the inevitable challenges and develop new shared practices. None of these questions have easy answers and they require that we think together and develop possible solutions together. You will read about different perspectives, tools and approaches that we and our partners at schools in Denmark have found useful; useful because they work in practice. We show you how to use visual methods to support meaningful learning for students, staff and leadership teams. The visual methods can be used to visualise learning processes and learning strategies, create clarity around objectives and progression as well as invite students and teachers to contribute with their own knowledge and competences. These methods can build an enriching, inspiring and motivating learning environment where children and adults alike can acquire and create new knowledge and competences together. We will dig into and unfold what Meaningful Learning Communities are, and how Graphic Facilitation can support you in creating the optimal conditions for these communities to thrive in an educational context.

Who is the book for? Our intention with the book is to inspire anyone working with learning, be it in formal education or any other context where learning is a central part of your work. While the book focuses on a school context with teachers and headteachers as our target group, it is equally applicable to other organisations. If you are a trainer, facilitator, or part of a team in your organisation you might relate more to what we call the teacher role. If you are holding a leadership position, the headteacher role might be where you see yourself. The teacher can find inspiration and methods to support facilitation in the classroom, working across disciplines, collaboration and structured preparation. We also look at ways to engage the students in their own learning and to strengthen their ability to reflect. The headteacher can find inspiration on how to think and communicate systemically and systematically about the objectives and initiatives of the school. She can find inspiration on how to create safe spaces for collaboration with her coworkers using visual methods and reflect on new approaches to leadership.




Guide to the reader We have been ambitious in the writing of this book, and you will be introduced to a large number of models and concepts. You might know some of them from elsewhere or they might all be new to you. As you read through the book, take whatever you find meaningful with you and experiment with putting into practice what is relevant. Simply let the rest go. We hope it can make a positive difference for you, for your school, your team or your classroom. The book is organised around four tracks that weave throughout the book: Theory: You will be introduced to background

theory that can support you and your colleagues developing a shared language and understanding around Meaningful Learning Communities. Methods: The book is built around concrete visual methods that you can use directly or adapt to your needs. Cases: We have used four very concrete cases to describe how Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation can be used in a school’s everyday practice.

Reflection: Throughout the book we offer questions that you can use to reflect on your own work.


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You can design your own reading experience of the book by picking out the chapters you feel most inspired by. We have some suggestions for chapters to pair for different unique reading designs: You have no experience or little experience with Graphic Facilitation. You only want to learn about Graphic Facilitation and primarily focus on the practical aspects. Read chapters 2, 8 and 9. You want to know how Graphic Facilitation and Meaningful Learning Communities relates to each other in practice. Read chapters 1, 2, 3 and 6. You have already been working with Graphic Facilitation and want to learn more about how to combine the visual methods with the Six Practices for Meaningful Learning Communities. Read chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. You are a headteacher or you work in a leadership position and want to learn more about how organisational development relates to Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation. Read chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

The book is available on our website: toolsforschools.dk, where you will also find some of the book’s visual material, freely available for download.

Glossary of Terms Throughout the book we refer to a number of concepts that can have different names and mean different things

in different countries. Therefore we have chosen to define our use of the concepts in the glossary below. While our language focuses on schools and other formal learning environments, the principles and practices we refer to apply to any organisation, community or collaborative context.

Formal titles


School terminology

HEADTEACHER The person who has the formal leadership within the organisation.

PARTICIPANT Anyone who participates in a dialogue, a process, a meeting, a lecture, etc. Participants can be either a child or an adult. The role is independent of any formal title.

SUBJECT SPECIFIC CONTENT Calculating, spelling, genre differentiation, foreign languages, physics formulas, historic events, soccer techniques, carpentry techniques, music notation, etc.

FACILITATOR Anyone who sets the frames for a dialogue, a process, a meeting, a lecture etc. The facilitator can be either a child or an adult. The role is independent of any formal title.

GENERAL LEARNING CONTENT Critical thinking, analysing, researching, collaboration, innovation, creativity, courage, leadership, etc.

THE LEADERSHIP The team around the headteacher which is responsible for both the structural and cultural aspects in the school. THE TEACHER Anyone involved in the planning and execution of the teaching and learning programme and the social aspects of the work in the classroom. THE STUDENT The child or young adult who attends the school. The school can be either primary school, secondary school or higher education. The term student can also refer to anyone who perceives themselves as a learner. We see learning as a life-long endeavour, independent of formal education.

LEADER Anyone who is leading herself, another person or a group of people. Both children and adults can take leadership regardless of their formal roles or titles.

SUBJECT Mathematics, languages, sports, music, physics, social studies, etc. PROJECT WEEK/THEME WEEK A week where the ordinary schedule is replaced by working in depth with a theme or a question. The work is done in groups and there will often be a presentation in the form of a report or a product by the end of the week.

EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT CONVERSATION A mandatory conversation for employees once or twice a year, facilitated by the headteacher. This conversation is about the wellbeing of the employee, her professional and personal development. SELF-GOVERNING TEAMS In Denmark, teachers are usually divided into teams that follow one year group. It is the responsibility of the teachers to coordinate within their team and plan their work with students in accordance with the curriculum set by the school and/or the state. POLITICALLY DEFINED GOALS Goals defined and decided upon by the political leaders of a country or state which apply to all schools equally.




The Danish educational system


Gender takes many forms. We alternate between the use of male and female pronouns, to avoid having to write he, she, they/them or person every time. At no point in the book is a task referred to as being specific to gender. All titles and all roles can be occupied by any gender.

The book is largely based on our experience working with and within the Danish school system. While the tools and methods in the book are universal and applicable in any context, it might be helpful to know a bit about the Danish context. In Denmark, a child begins school the year they turn six years old. Primary school is from 0 – 9th grade and includes an optional 10th grade. The child will usually be part of the same class from 0 – 9th grade, whereas the team of teachers will often change after 0, 3rd and 6th grade. Primary schools can be either public schools, free schools or private schools. About 77% (2018) of the Danish children attend public schools and about 17% (2018) attend a free or private school. Most classes have 28 students and one teacher per class. In recent years many schools have hired assistant teachers who can assist in the classes where needed. For most schools the day is divided into three to five subject periods. Four to five times a year, the class has a project-week where the children work with a specific theme or creative challenge. The teachers work in teams across year groups, planning which subjects and which themes the students will work with during these weeks. At the beginning of each school year, the teachers are required to present a year plan. By the end of primary school the child is typically 16-17 years old. At this point the child can choose to go to gymnasium which will offer access to university and other forms of higher education. They can also choose vocational education and training. About the same proportion of young adults choose the secondary directions that give access to universities as do vocational education. (uvm.dk/statistik) In the public system, primary school, gymnasium, vocational training and universities are all financed by the Danish population through taxes. A working citizen in Denmark pays between 30-60% taxes, depending on her income. All citizens have equal access to the Danish educational system. Generally, children from lower income families have the same opportunity to acquire a good education as children from middle and upper class families. In recent years there has been an objective in Denmark that 95% of all children must complete primary school and gymnasium or vocational education. The entire Danish educational system is collectively focused on the principles of: education for all, high standards, lifelong learning, active participation and project work. Via this link you can read more about the Danish educational system: ufm.dk/en/education/the-danish-education-system/overview.


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Primary school is our foundation Most Danish children spend the first 10 years of their formal education in primary school. The learning culture they encounter here will have great influence on their lives and work lives and therefore also on Danish society as a whole. This is probably also why there is a strong focus on primary school education from a societal perspective; both politically and from parents. In Tools for Schools we have been attracted to the primary school because we see it as one of Denmark’s institutional pillars. Therefore we will dive a bit deeper into what we consider some of the characteristics of the primary school. Primary school is intended to both educate and cultivate well-rounded citizens. The mission statement of primary school education states that the primary school, in collaboration with parents, intends to: “Prepare students for further education and motivate them to want to learn; teach them about Danish culture and history; provide them with an understanding of other countries and cultures; contribute to their understanding of the relationship between humans and nature and support the individual student’s general development. It is the primary school’s job to develop methods for their work and create frames for experience, immersion and initiative in such a way that it supports the development of the students’ self-realisation and imagination and that they become confident in their own possibilities and their ability to position themselves and take action. It is the primary schools’ job to prepare the students to participate, take responsibility and assume their rights and duties in a free and democratic society. The work of the primary school must therefore be carried out in the spirit of freedom, equality and democracy.” (uvm.dk) As we can read from this paragraph, it is not enough to be able to pass a multiple choice test in the final exams in 9th grade. The students must be literate in democracy, subject competencies, critical thinking and collaboration. To achieve this it is necessary that teachers involve the students so they experience and learn what it means to co-create, participate and share responsibility in their daily activities, in the classroom and the wider school community. Teachers in the Danish educational system have didactic freedom in choosing the methods they use in their work, as long as they meet the overall objectives of the primary school. In most Danish schools the teachers are organised introduction



in self-governing teams. This means that teachers have freedom in relation to how they prepare and manage their teaching and their collaborations. With this freedom comes responsibility and a need for self-discipline, self-leadership and an ability to navigate and lead in complexity. In recent years, schools in Denmark have experienced significant cutbacks. These have coincided with an increased focus on academic tests and goals. Subsequently, many of the teachers we have worked with have expressed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver high quality teaching and to thrive at the same time. “How do I live up to the requirements to educate and nurture well-rounded children, develop my own competencies, stay up-to-date with the subjects I teach and trends in society, work with colleagues across a variety of subjects and disciplines, have energy and be present for all the people I meet during a day if I do not have the time to prepare properly and breathe in between?” This is, amongst other aspects, one of the things we’ll dive into. For headteachers in Danish primary schools, the challenge is to ensure the practical aspects of each day flow, to develop an overall direction for the school, to translate policies and laws into daily practices and support the wellbeing of staff and students. Relatively speaking, Danish schools have a fair amount of freedom. This offers both opportunities and challenges. Headteachers and employees in these organisa­ tions need to work with ever-changing interpretations of the possibilities and limitations of the social and political conditions each moment brings. As such, collaboration, communication and reflection play an important role. “Draw to Learn” seeks to address and support precisely this dance of interpretation, communication, action and reflection in a collaborative way. Regardless of what kind of organisation or educational system you work within, our hope is that you will be able to recognise yourself or your role in situations that we put forward here. We hope you can benefit from the concrete examples, the theoretical concepts and the visual methods, to strengthen reflection, communication and documentation in your work.


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Define your point of departure, plan your journey and get out your notebook , pe ns and post-its ‌ or your tablet.


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6 2

Graphic Facilitation in the digital realm






It is important to highlight that Graphic Facilitation is equally effective when working digitally. In this book we focus primarily on introducing Graphic Facilitation in analogue form, using physical paper and pens. This is to ensure that the examples and exercises are accessible to all our readers. If your preference is for working digitally, there are endless possibilities for experimenting with Graphic Facilitation on your tablet, digital whiteboards etc. You can visit our website for a list of our favourite drawing apps. b



defining meaningful learning communities

Chapter 1

Defining Meaningful Learning Communities 24

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defining meaningful learning communities


p a h c g in w llo fo e th f o n o ti n te in e Th is It . in ra b r u o to in u yo te vi in ter is to e n fi e d e w w o h fy ri la c to t p m e tt a n a y it n u m m o c , g in rn a le s a h c su concepts im a o ls a e W l. fu g in n a e m is t a h w d n a You may or may not agree with these assumptions, but either way we hope that

this chapter will spark your reflections when it comes to concepts such as learning, community and how to make these meaningful. Meaningful Learning Communities can be seen as both a “container” and an approach to practising organisational learning in schools where the leadership, staff and students are learning simultaneously. It is exactly this approach that we unfold in this book.

Who defines what is meaningful?



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First and foremost we can ask ourselves who gets to define what is meaningful and why it is relevant to make something – learning for example – meaningful? Sociologist Brené Brown (2012) states that when something enriches, inspires, motivates us and has a purpose for us, we come to understand that thing or activity as being meaningful. This can be very different for each of us. It is the individual’s perception of whether something is meaningful that determines whether he is motivated to make an effort for it. What motivates or inspires us to act in this regard can be driven by several different factors. For example, I can experience an activity as being meaningful because I can see that it will make me better at biology. This will have a positively reinforcing effect in the long run. I can also perceive an act as being meaningful if it will protect me from being scolded. However, this will have a negative effect in the long run. So it is very important that the teacher or headteacher is able to put herself in the position of the receiver in order to understand what makes something meaningful in a specific situation. Furthermore, it is the job of the teacher or headteacher to create a safe space in which the individual will be motivated primarily by positive reinforcement. Last but not least, the students can be trained to become conscious of what they perceive as being meaningful so they themselves can contribute to a positively reinforcing learning environment.

g in d n ta rs e d n u n a h it w u yo e d vi ro to p e th e d vi ro p h ic h w s n o ti p m u ss of the a basis of our work, so you are able to put the ideas that we are presenting into context.

Meaningful (and not professional) Learning Communities. In schools around the world the concept of professional learning communities already exists. Therefore it can be slightly risky to introduce a new concept. We choose to be brave and do this in the hope that you will become curious about the type of learning community we are focusing on. To avoid confusion about the two concepts, here are a few words on the difference between Meaningful Learning Communities and professional learning communities. Meaningful Learning Communities embrace the principles of the professional learning community yet see learning communities in an even broader sense. Thomas Albrechtsen (2013) describes the professional learning community as consisting of the following elements: • • • • •

Shared values Focus on student learning Reflective dialogue Deprivatisation of practice Collaboration

We see these five elements as an important part of the Meaningful Learning Community. Our choice to define a new concept and omit the definition by Albrectsen is based on the associations that can be attached to the term professional. The term professional is often used to distinguish between amateur and professional or to describe paid work. The term is not associated with being a student, for exam-

ple. On this basis we argue that the professional learning community concept is centered around teachers and leaders. In this context the concept of professional learning communities excludes us from including the students as a part of the target group. It reduces the students to being receivers of the learning community’s results rather than being co-creators of it. Meaningful Learning Communities contain both the professional learning community and the characteristics that Thomas Albrectsen describe, while broadening the concept further. We see teachers, headteachers and students – together with other staff and parents – as equal creators in, and of, the learning community. We cannot deny that students are co-creators of the community, as they participate in it and constitute a big part of it. We can develop an approach specific to the teamcollaborations without the students participating in the meetings, but the students, along with leadership and parents will nevertheless influence whether we succeed in reaching our set intentions and goals. It is exactly this holistic approach we want to support by changing the focus from professional to Meaningful Learning Communities.


defining meaningful learning communities


Experience (practice)



(obtain new knowledge)

1.1 Frank and Madsen, 2020. When we work on formalis­ing informal learning, to transform into organisational learning, we take the experience of the individual as the point of departure. Collectively we try to understand the experience and then we transform these insights into new knowledge that can be tested in practice.


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(reflection/critical thinking)

What kind of learning are we talking about? We understand learning as the process of acquiring and creating new knowledge, insight, skills and experience. It is a matter of results (acquiring knowledge and mastering skills) and a matter of experiencing progression; being conscious that I am moving in the direction that will lead me to what I want to know or gaining the competences I want for myself. Our understanding of learning is inspired by John Dewey’s interpretation of pragmatism. Pragmatism is one of the epistemologies that is based on the understanding that humans realise and create meaning, knowledge and experience through action (thinking is in this context also regarded as action). Dewey highlights that learning and meaning making happen through the process of exploring, reflecting or thinking critically about the challenges one faces (Elkjær 2005). The main goal with such exploration is that our realisations (learning, know­ ledge, meaning-making), are translated into a changed behaviour and don’t simply remain realisations. Dewey points out that if our goal is for participants to change their behaviour, it is important to pay attention to what motivates them to engage in exploration in the first place. We can distinguish between formal and informal learning. In schools there is a primary focus on students’ formal learning as they go through planned classes and are encouraged to reflect on their own day-to-day learning. Formal learning for employees and headteachers can be seen as planned interventions such as seminars and guidance. This takes place in all schools to different degrees. Informal learning is the kind we each acquire in our everyday lives, but that does not become part of our collective knowledge or experience until it is shared with the wider community (Elkjær refers to Argyris, 2005). We are especially focused on making informal learning visible and useful when we work with Meaningful Learning Communities. Within each individual lies an enormous potential for informal learning but it requires different kinds of structures in classes or in meetings for this informal learning to benefit the organisation as a whole. We take a closer look at these structures later in the book.

Communities and why they matter in a learning context John Dewey was focused on the individual as the centre for learning. Professor Bente Elkjær later challenged this perspective by emphasising the fact that the individual is affected by her circumstances. Therefore, these circumstances need to be factored into the equation when working with learning, whether in the organisation or the classroom. According to Elkjær, learning happens as an exchange between the individual and her surroundings. This perspective suggests that there is a constant process of change, with the individual and the surrounding world mutually influencing and forming one another on an ongoing basis. This constant change process defines the circumstances that the employees and students need to operate and navigate within. We use the term community to refer to the group of stakeholders that make up your school or organisation. The community forms your surroundings when you are at work or school and therefore plays a key role in what and how you learn. Some communities we choose, based on shared interests or simply because we like a group of people. In such cases, relationships are often the main purpose, so we could say that relationships in this type of community are affection-based. In contrast, the communities one finds in a school or workplace are usually made up of relationships we wouldn’t necessarily choose ourselves, but which form around a shared purpose of work or learning. We could call these work-based or learning-based relationships. While the school’s role is primarily to nurture a community based on work/learning relationships, in most cases affection-based relationships will naturally develop as well. However, as the two forms of relationships are interconnected and affect one another, we need to be able to differentiate between them and pay attention to both. For this reason, it is important to attend to relationships in the community and invest in nurturing a culture that is inclusive and conducive for learning. We experience our best work and learning in contexts where affection-based relationships have the possibility of growing and flourishing as well.

defining meaningful learning communities


Meaningful Learning Communities Meaningfulness is to be understood in this context as an individual’s perception of something as being enriching, motivating or serving a purpose that they can recognise. It may or may not be followed by an action or a result that stretches beyond the individual. Learning is the process of acquiring and creating new knowledge, insight, skills and experience. Community denotes a group of people whoi have something in common. This could include interests, norms, identities, a vision or geographical placement. We differentiate between communities built around affection-based relationships and those built on work/ learning-based relationships. In this book we mainly focus on communities built on resilient work/learning relationships.

I Summary This chapter highlights how communities are the foundation for learning in the entire school. Headteachers and teachers are not only learning in the interaction with other colleagues but also in the interaction with the students. We have concluded that learning happens in the dynamic space between the individual’s learning and the community’s learning. A simple example could be a community in which a judgemental culture suppresses the individual’s opportunities to explore. This results in individuals learning that what is most meaningful is how to survive the day without becoming the next victim. On the other hand, if the culture of the community is tolerant and respectful, individuals can feel safe and will be able to immerse themselves in the subject-specific content. In our day-to-day school life we are each other’s travel companions. The ship can not sail without the community functioning well. You will get practical examples that show how intentionally facilitated exploration can create space for subject-related learning while simultaneously nourishing resilient work/learning relationships and healthy learning communities. We will also look at how Graphic Facilitation can support us in our exploration. b


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TIM The questions in the template are an invitation for you to reflect upon how Meaningful Learning Communities are practised in your work or learning context. You can write straight into the template below or print it at toolsforschools.dk.



Meaningful Learning Communities WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE WHITE BOXES USING KEYWORDS OR SHORT SENTENCES. ADD ICONS IF YOU LIKE. What would you define as sign of a Meaningful Learning Community where you work or learn?

Where and how do you think the practice of MLC could be suppo ed even fu her in your work or learning environment?

What are concrete actions you experience the organisation, colleagues and co-learners are taking to nu ure a Meaningful Learning Community?


defining meaningful learning communities





this is graphic facilitation

Chapter 2

This is Graphic FacilItation


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this is graphic facilitation


Graphic Facilitation : can be described as ing is n a g r o f o s s e c o r p A ing n r a le g in t a it il c a f d an ugh o r h t n io t a r o b a ll o c and drawing, text and stor y telling

Field trip to the forest

In this chapter we will describe Graphic Facilitation. We will share our definition

of Graphic Facilitation and introduce three visual methods. With the word facilitation we refer to the way we plan and host the space for learning; thus the underlying didactic considerations and the way we implement them. The term Graphic Facilitation refers to the practice of framing process and content visually using simple drawing techniques. When you we on a learning journey, the power of Graphic Facilitation can be compared with providing the map we use to navigate. The map allows us to understand the territory and how to navigate the ship to reach our final destination. The map offers us insights and an overview that dialogue alone can not provide.

The graphic part – three visual methods The graphic part consists of images and text that we combine in order to document or present important messages. Among different graphic facilitators there is great variety when it comes to visual expression and the balance between images and text. In Tools for Schools we divide Graphic Facilitation into three distinct visual methods. The three methods can be used individually and in groups.

THE VISUAL PRESENTATION A Visual Presentation is a hand-drawn overview of information which is meant to be communicated to other people. It can be compared to a PowerPoint-presentation in that it has the following two things in common: It is prepared in advance and is used to support a verbal presentation. The Visual Presentation visualises the content and context for what you are communicating. It can clarify for students and colleagues what is going to happen, why, how and when. A Visual Presentation can have different levels of complexity. It can be an overview of the daily schedule of activities in the classroom, a visual overview of the phases in a project or a development strategy for the entire school.


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THE VISUAL TEMPLATE The template is a visual structure consisting of headlines (in the form of themes or questions) and empty fields. The empty fields are intended for participants to write or draw their answers or responses to the headlines. A Visual Template provides a predefined structure and invites focused reflection or dialogue. You could compare a Visual Template to a traditional written questionnaire which also contains questions and spaces for answers. Contrary to a written questionnaire, where the layout invites a chronological workflow, Visual Templates are more dynamic. Visual templates are organised in a way that allows us to jump between the different questions and engage with several fields without losing the overview. When we fill out the template it becomes clear which answers we already have, what we already know and what we are still unclear about. Everyone involved has an overview of the content and can take responsibility for the process of reaching shared clarity. This method is also valuable when, as a teacher or a headteacher, you cannot be present during a dialogue or a reflection session that you wish to invite students or colleagues into. For this reason we also call these templates “ghost facilitators�.

VISUAL NOTES Visual note-taking is a method that requires participants to listen and filter information by selecting key points, grouping content, and making connections between different elements of the information they are receiving. The summary or essence is visualised by combining key words or sentences with icons.


2.1 Visual Presentations strengthen our ability to communicate a message and the small details within it. They also show the relationship between the different parts and make them clear for the audience. 2.2 Visual Templates provide clear structure and invite reflection, dialogue and participation. 2.3 Visual notes offer a way to process information by prioritising, organising, connecting, sense-making and documenting the essence of the content you are hearing. Visual notes are also known as sketch notes, mind maps, meeting notes, graphic recording, doodling and scribing.

Some benefits of Visual Notes include: 1. The participants make sense and surface patterns of the information they are being presented. 2. Learning and insights are harvested immediately and will not be lost. 3. Visual Notes support individual and collective processing of information and strengthen the ability to remember what was taught or agreed upon.

this is graphic facilitation






The Art of Facilitating – Three principles for enabling meaningful learning


1. Make it visible: show a visual representation of content you’re working with (e.g. scope, process, and results). 2. Create shared clarity: present/verbalise/articulate the scope, process and results. 3. Invite participation: clarify the conditions of the exercise and engage the participants in co-creation and co-learning.

Facilitation relates to how we design, intentionally frame and guide a learning or development process. We define facilitation based on three principles: To make visible, create shared clarity and invite participation. When these three principles are brought into play, supported by the three visual methods, we call it Graphic Facilitation. In the following section we will look at how the three principles can support learning, collaboration and the creation of results.


2.4 Frank and Madsen, 2014. Facilitation is based on three principles. 2.5 When we talk about learning we should aim to soak/immerse ourselves in sensory experiences. This goes for learning for both children and adults. – Ole Lauridsen


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The first step in making it visible is to create a visual overview of the content you want to communicate, either on paper or on a screen. For example, it could be a process, lesson or project plan. The second step is to place or project the visual overview on a wall so it is visible in the room. This is a simple but crucial step in creating coherence between the different activities that students or participants experience. If we return to the ship metaphor for a moment, we can illustrate the value of visualising by imagining a situation where one of the sails is not hoisted properly. In this scenario it can be helpful to make the problem and possible solutions visible by drawing them in order to: • Communicate and create shared clarity around the nature of the problem. • Agree on a way to fix the problem before we send somebody high up the mast. • Inform the crew about the situation and how we intended to resolve it.

Maybe you have already been working with Visible Learning (Hattie, John 2008)? Our principle of Make it visible is not to be confused with Visible Learning even though the methods we are introducing can be used to support Hattie’s learning theory. Research on the brain shows that 89% of the information we receive we get through sight. Therefore it is essential to visualise information to ensure good opportunities for learning and collaboration (Lauridsen, 2016). Generally, it is good to get as many senses activated as possible when we are in the process of learning something. To simplify, we could imagine that the information or learning that we want to access is stored in a room, and every sense is a door into that room. The more senses that we engage while we are exploring, the more ways we can access our learning. This is why it is easier to remember what was taught when more of our senses have been engaged. For instance, when we document learning using Visual Notes, we stimulate the aural sense, the visual sense and the sense of touch.

CREATE SHARED CLARITY Creating shared clarity is the next principle. If we return to the previous paragraph where we drew up and made visible a given process or project, the next thing is to create shared clarity by communicating the content of the process. We can do that, for instance, by talking about and pointing out details or steps in a process and connecting those to the overall aim of the process. By doing this, we can support participants in understanding the context they are acting within and provide them with an opportunity to ask questions. In a school context we need to create shared clarity around collective tasks, roles and expectations as well as short and long-term goals and objectives. As a teacher in a classroom situation, you are the primary knowledge holder. You are a facilitator for learning so it is your responsibility to create clarity around how different subjects and topics fit into the bigger picture. The student is not immediately able to see for himself the connections between the different themes and subjects you are working with. If students are not supported in creating clarity around this, the activities risk becoming random, disconnected elements. The same goes for the headteacher or leader who wants to create


“In maths class we were learning about geometry and construction by making constructions out of straws and tape. I feel like it’s much easier to remember what we learn when we get to sit with it in our hands and it is relatable to the real world.” – 8th grade student

this is graphic facilitation


“In history class we had to make a poster in our group showing the founding of the EU. Everyone in our class has learned how to draw so we helped each other make the poster and used it for our presentation. It was fun to do something different than slides.” – Student


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shared clarity and purpose with staff around the activities and priorities in an overall strategy. Here the headteacher is seen as the primary knowledge holder. By visualising the different sub-elements and the process or project in its entirety, you can make it much easier for students or staff to achieve clarity and overview in the learning context or work context they are in. It supports them in making sense and to navigate in the intended direction.

INVITE PARTICIPATION The third principle is inviting participation. When our students and staff are given the opportunity to influence their own everyday life and work, the probability of creating a sense of ownership in learning, collaboration and results is much higher (Hattie, 2013; Senge, 1999). It is especially important to invite participation at times when we need to acquire or create new knowledge and new solutions. Participation in this context is to be understood as both individual reflection and verbal or physical co-creation; being in dialogue or building something concrete together (Vygotsky, 1978). Notice that we use the words inviting and participation in the same sentence. The nature of the participation is highly dependent on the way the invitation is communicated. Participation is not only about being activated, it is about being activated within a clearly defined scope, towards clearly defined objectives tailored to the individual. The student or employee can themselves be part of defining scope and objectives or they can be defined by others, for example the teacher or the headteacher. The most important thing is that the invitation is clear so the participants will focus their time and energy on the content and not on negotiating the scope or boundaries of the assignment. If we return to our ship metaphor, we can ask ourselves what the crew-members need to participate and be motivated to fulfill their respective roles. First of all, they need clarity about the goal or the destination, and they need to share the desire to reach that goal, whether it involves treasure or the knowledge of how to multiply. Also they need to know their roles, tasks and responsibilities

e Te mp lat



P re se nt

atio n 2.6





as well as being able to trust their own ability to contribute to the whole in a meaningful way. On a ship the success of the journey depends on everybody’s contribution. Each crew member knows that he is essential and that in itself is a strong motivation to participate. The classroom is not much different. With the visual methods you can make clear the scope and boundaries of the assignment that you are inviting others into. If, for instance, you are preparing a template to support participation, you need to be very clear and concrete about what it is you are inviting from students. In making the template you need to consider the focus of the process, both in terms of content and level of detail or concreteness. The questions or headlines you choose to guide their work, will determine whether the outcome is an initial brainstorm or a final selection. The following two questions, are both about the topic of destination, however they yield very different answers: “What is our next destination?” “Which route is the safest way to reach our next destination?”

2.6 We can connect the three visual methods to this learning model. Presentations are especially good for making visible and creating clarity around predefined content. Templates bring clarity to the scope and focus of the work and invite participation to co-create content. The Visual Notes make it possible for the participants to visualise their contributions, to make visible patterns and discover new connections in the content.

this is graphic facilitation


Make the assignment visible to ensure shared clarity

P re se nt


es Te mp lat

Provide clarity around the structure and boundaries of the assignment to allow for participation Participation



Make the outcomes of the participatory process visible 2.7 Around the model is the learning spiral. It illustrates how new learning can happen when we combine the three methods with the three principles.


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atio n


Create new clarity around the outcome and make that visible.

The spiral shows the reciprocity between context, structure and content. For example, a specific project or a subject can be introduced by using a presentation to make visible and create clarity around the context that the students will be working with that day. In this case you could focus your presentation on the background, purpose and what goals you are setting. Once there is shared clarity, you can invite participation by introducing a Visual Template for the students to fill out. By taking notes into the template, guided by your questions and headlines, the students discover for themselves what they know about the given subject. The Visual Notes are presented or worked on further for a presentation that aims to clarify and visualise what the students have learned If we choose, we can use this clarity to go even deeper into the process. In this way the spiral never ends.


Summary 2.7

In this chapter we took a closer look at Graphic Facilitation as a tool that combines three methods and three principles. A key point is that Graphic Facilitation is about a lot more than just drawing. The graphic aspect needs to support and complement your didactic and process considerations. This is where the use of visuals goes from being art or creative expression to becoming a strategic tool to enhance communication. In the next chapter we will present three cases that illustrate how Graphic Facilitation can be used to support learning and development in organisations as well as in the classroom. d this is graphic facilitation





ECT This template is an invitation for you to dive a little deeper into the three principles of facilitation. You can write straight into the template below or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.


What tools am I currently using to create clarity and to invite pa icipation?

Which visual methods do I see could have a big impact on my work?

In ge ing sta ed with using visual methods, what challenges do I foresee and how can I overcome them?

In what concrete situations could I use visual methods?



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“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

—  Chinese proverb [adaption] “The ear’s hearing something is not as good as the eye’s seeing it; the eye’s seeing it is not as good as the foot’s treading upon it; the foot’s treading upon it is not as good as the hands differentiating it.”

this is graphic facilitation


stories from schools

Chapter 3

Stories from schools


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stories from schools


The following chapter contains three case stories from different schools to show how Graphic Facilitation can support meaningful learning and learning communities. After each story you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on the impact of using Graphic Facilitation. The cases and the visual material are fictional but heavily inspired by situations from the real world. For us to maintain confidentiality and avoid unnecessary exposure for the people involved we have modified and combined the many good stories we have heard from students, teachers and headteachers at different schools. In order to unfold the full potential of this work, we have added generously to both the process design and the 46

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visual methods. All the methods can be used independently of each other. We invite you to take and apply what is relevant for you.

stories from schools




Case: Mathematics buffet in 5th grade

How can I support the students’ learning – both individually and collectively – by visualising the process, creating collective clarity and inviting participation?


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Kirsten is preparing a lesson in which she wants students to revisit the work they

have done in maths over the past few months. Previously, she had the students do small tests individually. This gave her a good overview of how well each student has understood and learned the different skills, however, she would like to supplement the test with a process that can introduce the students to concepts such as knowledge sharing, leadership and participation.

3.1 – 3.3 Visual Notes from Kirsten’s preparations.

PHASE 1: PROCESS DESIGN Kirsten imagines the lesson being organised as a buffet where the students can walk around to different stations, each of which represents a different theme with certain tasks. Stations could be called “multiplying numbers by ten”, “adding decimal numbers” and “fractions”. Each student gets to choose the station with the specific theme that he needs to refresh. Each station needs to have a host who has read up on the specific theme in advance and has already solved the tasks presented at the station. The role of the host is to introduce his theme to the students who visit the station and to help them, get through the tasks, if needed. Kirsten draws while designing the process and arrives at the following sketch (Fig. 3.3). Kirsten considers who the hosts should be. Should it be volunteer-based or should she choose some of the students who are stronger in the subject? Should the hosts themselves choose the theme they want to “teach” or should Kirsten delegate the themes? stories from schools



She decides to choose hosts for this first time as it fits well with finding ways to challenge the students that are already strong in maths. However, she will let the hosts choose what they want to teach from a list of the themes they have worked with. If this process turns out to be a success, the hosting role can become something every student gets to try out.




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In the next maths lesson she gives the class some tasks to sit and work with while inviting six students to join her for a conversation about the host role at the maths buffet. She asks them if they are open to accept the challenge. She has made a sketch showing the structure of the process (Fig. 3.6) and and a template to identify what kind of preparation is needed from the hosts (Fig. 3.4). The host has to choose a theme from the list, read up on the theme in their maths book and solve a new set of tasks which the rest of the class will not yet have seen. During the buffet, visiting students need to solve the same set of tasks when they come to the host’s station, therefore it is important that the host knows the answers and can help the other students. Five of the students are up for the challenge and Kirsten decides to stick with five hosts, which means five students per station.


3.4 Preparation template for the hosts.

3.5 Using a Visual Template provides a clear structure, creates a focus for the conversation and allows for both students to contribute content.

3.6 Kirstens’ Visual Presentation of the process shown to the class.

stories from schools


For homework, the hosts have to fill out the template and solve the set of tasks. Kirsten then reads through them and makes corrections where needed. Now the hosts are prepared to experience the role of being a teacher for their classmates.


Note your answers on the following questions: How is Graphic Facilitation used in this case to stimulate, invite and facilitate situations where meaningful learning can take place? What impact does Graphic Facilitation have on both the students’ and the teacher’s preparation work? How does the use of visual methods support visualisation, clarification and participation in this case?


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The day has come for the maths buffet. Kirsten has prepared a Visual Presentation of the process, so it is clear for students how this different lesson will unfold. The five hosts will be seated at a table with five chairs and task-sheets and they have been asked to make a nice sign stating the theme for their table. They also have their own template and their own task-sheet with the tasks already solved so they have the correct results nearby. After the introduction the students are free to choose which station they want to go to, with the caveat that there is a maximum of five students per table. There will be three rounds so each student is able to visit three different stations. During the maths buffet Kirsten manages the time and lets the students know when to switch to another table. Other than that, she does not interfere. The students know they can call on her if they have any questions. She can’t help but notice that a student from another class comes in, walks over to one of the stations and starts talking to the host, Nicholas. Nicholas calmly responds, “Benny, can we talk during the break? I am in the middle of teaching.”

PHASE 4: FOLLOW-UP Subsequently, Kirsten asks the students about their experience of being either hosts or visitors in the exercise. One of the hosts says it’s been fun but also difficult to get the table to be quiet in the beginning. Kirsten thinks this is a great way for them to experience how difficult and disruptive it can be if there is noise when you are trying to teach. All the comments from the visitors are positive and they compliment the hosts on being helpful and patient teachers. Finally, Kirsten asks if they would be interested in trying it again and if anyone else would be interested in being a host next time. More than half the class raise their hands. Kirsten concludes that there is a lot of enthusiasm in the class for taking responsibility and practising leadership. It is clear that the five hosts have been excellent role models for their classmates. In this case we demonstrate how students get a chance to dive deeper into subject specific content when they are preparing to communicate what they have learned to their classmates. The student momentarily steps into another role and becomes a host of other students’ learning.

Case: Staff development conversation – a mutual learning exploration between teacher and headteacher.

How can I support reflection and engagement through personal and professional development conversations? Jeanette is headteacher at a large school. Twice a year she holds staff devel-

opment conversations with everyone on staff. The conversation takes 30–45 minutes and is designed to provide Jeanette with insight into both the teacher’s wellbeing and work. Jeanette’s previous experiences show that there is a significant difference in how well-prepared the teachers are prior to the meeting, with the consequence being that for some, the conversation is relevant and truly developmental, while for others it lacks structure and direction. Therefore, Jeanette asks herself the following questions: “How can I create the best possible conditions for my staff to show up well prepared?” “How can I invite a dialogue where I can listen deeply to what is on my staff ’s mind and still make sure we have time to talk about the areas we need to cover?”

PHASE 1: DESIGNING THE MEETING PROCESS AND DEVELOPING QUESTIONS Jeanette knows the importance of preparation, both in terms of designing the meeting and identifying the questions she wants staff to reflect upon in advance.

stories from schools



There are three different areas she would like to cover during the meeting: 1. She is curious to know how the staff is doing in general. She wants to revisit the objectives from their previous meeting, set new objectives and hear about any potential challenges they might be experiencing. 2. The school is currently working with Visible Learning (Hattie, John) on all levels, so she is interested to hear how that is going, both in the classroom and within the teaching team. 3. A new project has come out of the work of Visible Learning in the school. The leadership at the school calls this project “Learning in Sight�, and it is intended to support the leadership team and staff to see themselves as learning individuals by working consciously with feedback and reflecting upon their own learning. Based on the following three headlines, Jeanette begins to develop sub-questions: 1. General wellbeing and new objectives. Teaching: What is going really well in my teaching? What challenges do I encounter? What do I want to become better at? What kinds of support do I need? Team: What works well in my team? What challenges do I encounter? What kinds of support do I/we need? 2. Visible Learning in the classroom and in the team. How am I working with Visible Learning in my classes? What successful experiences have I had with Visible Learning? What signs am I seeing that tell 54

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me that Visible Learning has a positive effect on the students’ learning? What challenges do I meet? 3. “Learning in Sight” – feedback. What are my personal goals in terms of getting better at giving and receiving feedback, in the classroom, in my team and to/from the leadership? Besides these three overarching themes, Jeanette will end the meeting with a question that can solicit feedback for her and the leadership team on their work, communication and processes. She formulates a set of questions from which she can choose to ask: • • • •

What are you missing from us (the leadership team)? How did you experience this meeting (process and content-wise)? How can we, the leadership team, support you even more in your work? Which themes would you like to dive into at your next staff development conversation?

Jeanette is aware that there are many things on the agenda. She decides to make a small Visual Presentation with an overview of the conversation. She prints this in A4 format and gives it to the staff member prior to the meeting. She also asks staff to answer the questions related to Visible Learning prior the meeting by filling out a Visual Template.

3.7 – 3.8 Templates for preparing the meeting.

stories from schools



PHASE 2: HAVING THE STAFF DEVELOPMENT CONVERSATIONS Linda shows up at Jeanette’s office for her staff development conversation. She has filled out the template regarding the Visual Learning work in advance and she has reflected on the questions for each part on the agenda. Jeanette has decided not to make a template for the first part of the agenda regarding general wellbeing as she would like that part to be more informal and come from the heart. Instead she takes Visual Notes while Linda talks. She also keeps an eye on which questions they cover. Visual Notes allow the freedom to follow the dialogue without getting hung up on boxes and speech bubbles with predefined questions. A few times, Jeanette does a small recap of what she as heard Linda say, and invites Linda to add and correct any misunderstandings. This supports Linda in feeling seen and heard in the conversation. Jeanette has devoted approximately 20 minutes for this part of the process. For the first 15 minutes, they focus primarily on a number of growing challenges in Linda’s team. Jeanette knows that Linda is an excellent teacher and is liked by the students, so she asks her if there is anything related to her teaching she would like to share. As expected, Linda does not have any comments other than that she enjoys the work with students. They spend the last couple of minutes defining some possible next steps regarding the challenges in Linda’s team. Afterwards, they talk through the template on the Visible Learning work, and Jeanette asks questions, inviting Linda to elaborate on some of her responses. Integrating Visible Learning in the classroom is generally going well, but within the team there is a lack of motivation and Linda is unsure to what 56

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extent the other teachers in her team are working with it. It helps them both to have Linda’s notes from the template as it keeps the conversation very concrete. Finally, it is time to discuss the “Learning in Sight” project. As a part of this project, a number of smaller status meetings are planned, in addition to the staff development conversations, for the purposes of evaluating feedback regularly. This way everyone can follow progress and evaluate within the different areas of the project. Therefore, Jeanette has made one Visual Template to be used for this meeting and the next three meetings. The template has spaces for staff to fill out learning goals and actions to follow-up on these learning goals. Templates offer a good overview so it is easy to go back and see which goals were identified at their previous meeting and ensure a red threat throughout the process. Now the theme is feedback. Jeanette takes notes as she asks into Linda’s goals when it comes to giving and receiving feedback, in the classroom, in her team and with the leadership. As expected, the conversation centres on feedback with the team. It becomes clear to Linda that feedback could be a way to improve collaboration within the team. Towards the end of the conversation Jeanette asks if Linda has any feedback, for Jeanette specifically or the leadership team in general. Linda answers that she feels the leadership team is doing a very good job and that she has enjoyed this staff development conversation. She experienced it as being very valuable to receive the agenda and the template in advance so she could better prepare herself for the meeting.

3.9 Jeanette’s Visual Notes from the staff development conversation. 3.10 “Learning in Sight” template.

stories from schools




Note your answers on the following questions: How could Graphic Facilitation support you when it comes to preparation and setting clear frames? In what situations could you see yourself using Graphic Facilitation to invite and support reflection and participation? Give an example of a time when you experienced wellfunctioning learning and development spaces. What made them good?


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After her meeting with Linda, Jeanette takes photos of the templates and the notes and puts them in a digital folder so she can access them for future meetings. She keeps the original copy of the feedback template as it will be used again soon, but the rest of the originals she gives to Linda. Once Jeanette has been through all the staff development conversations, she evaluates the process and the results. She concludes that overall it worked very well, particularly the preparation of the meeting and the way in which the visual material was used to clarify and invite participation, before and during the process. Even though not everyone showed up for their meeting prepared, the meetings turned out to be more effective than they had been in the past. Jeanette observes that even when it was not filled out in advance, the template provided clarity around the different themes and helped structure the conversation. The only thing Jeanette is not happy about is the quality of the feedback she and the leadership received. While it was exclusively positive, it was also very general and therefore not so helpful from a learning perspective. She concludes that it isn’t easy to be put on the spot and provide constructive feedback to your headteacher, so she decides that next time she will sharpen the questions, make them more specific and let the staff reflect on them before the meeting. In this case, Jeanette is using Graphic Facilitation in two ways: as a structured process for preparing herself, and to provide a clear, predictable structure for the staff, helping them to feel safe and engaged in the development conversation.

Case: Presentation of a new study programme

How can we use Graphic Facilitation to create shared clarity and ensure collective ownership of a complex project with many agendas? In Denmark, 10th grade is a voluntary school year taken by students who are

either not yet clear on their direction in their further education, or who need to strengthen their subject knowledge and social competencies. Ben is headteacher at a 10th grade school. He is responsible for six classes, each of which is following a different study programme. The municipality has given him and his leadership team the task of implementing a new strategy for delivering the 10th grade curriculum. The new strategy involves establishing a new 10th grade programme for students who are unclear on what they want to do after they finish 10th grade. Up until now, students have been able to choose between eud 10, a programme focused on vocational education and training, and gym 10 which is oriented towards students who would like to go on to higher education after 10th grade. The new programme operates under the working title flex 10. It has a special focus on clarifying activities and building bridges between students and different educational institutions.

PHASE 1: CLARIFYING THE PROJECT Ben thinks the project has great potential but is aware that it will lead to significant structural changes for the school and its staff. Therefore, he is aware of the importance of clear communication in order to avoid confusion, misunderstanding and staff overwhelm. In Ben’s opinion, the project description provided by the municipality is dense and poorly presented. After reading it through several times, Ben can

3.11 The draft of the presentation works as a shared point of reference for the leadership team in the conversation about the new strategy.

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see that for his own sake, and for the sake of the rest of the leadership team, they need a better understanding of the project before they can communicate it to other staff. It is clear it will need to be communicated differently, ideally in a different format.

PHASE 2: DEVELOPING A VISUAL PRESENTATION At the next meeting of the leadership team, Ben designs a rough sketch showing the two existing 10th grade programmes alongside the new programme on a flipchart. They use this sketch as their point of departure for exploring what the three different programmes have in common; how they are different and what the target group is for each programme. They also identify what the intentions are, both for the municipality and for themselves, in introducing this new 10th grade programme. As they talk, Ben takes notes on post-it notes and adds them to the sketch so the team has a shared overview of how their conversation is developing. They continue with a discussion of the challenges presented by this project. These are also added to the sketch. After the meeting, everyone feels that they understand the project better. It was a valuable process for them to take the intentions of the municipality and relate 60

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them to the intentions of the school. Being able to relate it to their own context also gave everyone a stronger sense of ownership over the project. Ben takes the sketch containing all the new post-it notes with him and promises the group that he will draw it up clearly for their next meeting.


3.12 Ben’s draft of the three 10th grade programs. 3.13 The sketch with the new input.

In drawing up the presentation, Ben strats with the structure of the sketch and adds the headlines that came up in the conversation: • • • • •

Intentions (ours and the municipality’s) Common elements for all three programmes Each programme’s individual features/qualities/focus areas Each programme’s target groups Challenges related to the project

He goes through the many post-it notes and clears out duplications and ideas that are outside of the project’s scope. He writes the rest underneath the headlines on the poster and brings the poster to the next meeting.

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Presentation of the new strategy: 10th grade with three programmes.

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“Our Visual Presentation was shown to everyone; teachers, prospective parents, the school board, our collaborators at different vocational schools and the teachers’ association. Everyone was able to see the red thread in the project and the teachers became more comfortable with what they would be doing. We also used the Visual Presentation with politicians to raise more funds so we could reach our objectives in the project.” – Headteacher


How does the sketch create value in this case?

At the leadership team’s next meeting, Ben goes through the presentation and the rest of the team feels that it accurately represents the conversation they had at their previous meeting. They agree that it will work very well as a reference when communicating the project to the rest of the staff. Lisa questions whether everyone needs to see what challenges the leadership sees regarding the project. After discussing this, they agree that this would be a good opportunity to practise transparency, and it could even open up an important dialogue about the challenges that staff see in implementing the project at their school.

How does the Visual Presentation create value in this case?


Note your answers on the following questions:

How does Ben’s framing and his practice of using visual methods support learning in the community?


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Summary Now you have been introduced to three examples showing how Graphic Facilitation can be used to support Meaningful Learning Communities at different levels in the school. In the following chapter you will be introduced to two complementary mental models that offer a foundation for working with Meaningful Learning Communities. These two models can be used as a shared reference for different stakeholders in the school. b

TIM By answering the questions in the template you are one step closer to start using visual methods in your next meeting, lecture or workshop. You can write straight into the template below or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.




Think of a meeting, lesson or workshop you have in the coming two weeks where you can test one of the visual methods.

Write down 3 – 5 questions you want the meeting, lesson or workshop to explore:

What visual method could I use? Get inspiration in Chapter 2 and 9.

Which activity during a meeting, lesson or workshop could be suppo ed by on of the visual methods and how?

TIP: Check if the headlines in the visual method you have used match your questions above. If not, change the headlines to match the questions.

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a systemic perspective

Chapter 4

A Systemic Perspective 66

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a systemic perspective


o t g n i y r t y l t n a t s n o c e e r c a n s e n i i r a e r p b x r e e Ou w t a h w f n o o i e t s a n u e t s i s t n e r make r u c e h t g n i t c e . s e c n by conn e i r e p x e d e s i r to memo Blue?? What do you mean? ItĘťs red!

In order for teachers and leaders to engage in a dialogue about how Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation can be developed in schools, it is helpful to have a shared language and a shared set of mental models to work from. This chapter will describe two mental models that together provide a foundation for our work with Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation. The models are offered as a starting point for a conversation about how you organise yourselves and how you communicate, in the school, in the team and in the classroom.

SHARED MENTAL MODELS Mental models are filters or lenses through which we view the world or a specific situation. We all have mental models whether we are conscious of them or not. They are based on the experiences and values we hold. Returning to our sailing metaphor, you can imagine that you are standing on the dock about to board the ship with your colleagues. You can sense that a strong wind is coming and you all look at each other. You smile because you are a surfer so for you strong wind means good waves to play in. The colleague to your right also smiles, however she is thinking that wind in the sails means speed and could ensure an earlier arrival at


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your next destination. The colleague to your left goes pale because he equates wind with sea sickness. Your three reactions are different because of your personal experiences and preferences. You and your seasick colleague want to postpone the trip and stay docked for today. He, because he does not want to get seasick and you, because you would like to go surfing. Your other colleague wants to get going immediately to take advantage of the wind. The situation above is a metaphor but it can refer to any situation in real life, where you have agreed with colleagues or students on a goal or assignment and an unexpected event

triggers different responses. When we have to collaborate or lead others, being conscious about the filter we are interpreting a situation through can be a huge help as these interpretations decide how we choose to act. Therefore, it is often a good idea to find shared mental models that you can use at your school, in your team or in the classroom to help staff, colleagues and students understand why we act the way we do.

Complexity The best “solutions” are co-created by all stakeholders affected by the problem

Complicated A trained expert can solve the problem Good Practice

Emergent Practice D is o


rde r



Chaotic Acts of leadership are needed in order to stabilise the situation Novel Practice

Anyone can solve the problem Best Practice


The Cynefin Framework The decisions you make and the way you lead yourself and others is largely based on the way you perceive reality in a given situation. It helps to have a shared framework and shared understanding if you are to work and make decisions together. The Cynefin Framework was developed by management consultant and founder of Cognitive Edge, David Snowden. The conceptual framework describes five contextsomains”, which help us understand how we experience and make sense of challenges, as well as the different approaches to action demanded by these challenges.

4.1 The Cynefin Framework “explores the relationship between human, experience, and context” (David Snowden).

a systemic perspective


THE CLEAR DOMAIN In the clear domain there is a linear connection between cause and effect. If a problem or challenge appears in the clear domain we are all equally competent in solving it. A challenge is handled in accordance to this approach:



Viktor spills milk all over the chart. You observe what is happening and you categorise that liquid and paper is not a good match, so you need to get something that can soak up the milk. You react by instructing Viktor or you might go to get napkins yourself. In this clear domain, we are all capable of finding a solution. There is no need for special expertise. This is the realm of Best Practice.

THE COMPLICATED DOMAIN In the complicated domain there is also a linear connection between cause and effect but it may require an expert to spot the connection and to solve the problem. The approach for addressing the challenge in this domain is:



Emma has fallen on the deck and has severely bruised her foot. You need to involve an expert in the form of a medical doctor to examine the foot, analyse by feeling it or x-raying it, and as with the clear domain, act based on the results of the analysis. This is the realm of Good Practice.

THE COMPLEX DOMAIN In the complex domain there is a relationship between cause and effect, but you are only able to see the relationship in hindsight. Furthermore, the relationship is context specific, which means that if you encounter a similar situation in a different context you might not be able to apply the same solutions. In this domain, there are no right answers, no best practice and the kind of expertise we need centres around our ability to learn together. This is the realm of Emergent Practice. We have to experiment, prototype and learn our way forward, observing closely what works and what does not work. The approach to working in complexity is:


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PROBE (to elicit feedback from the system) SENSE (to better understand the system)



The captain has received new guidelines, goals and visions from higher ranks which need to be translated into practice. In the process, there is a need to identify several possible approaches, all of which will be tested over time in order to find the solutions that have the most positive effect. It is also important to invite as many of the affected stakeholders as possible to become co-creators of these solutions. We need more than just the captain’s point of view. Everyone onboard are now experts. While testing our different possible solutions, we observe what happens and we evaluate continuously which solutions work best. Then we can act by optimising, choosing and implementing. In the complex domain we need many kinds of expertise and therefore, we broaden the notion of an expert to encompass all affected parties. You can be an expert because you are a professor, but also because you are a student, a teacher, a cleaner or a parent. The definition of expertise is determined by the specific challenge we are facing. When we bring together many experts it can be helpful to have a facilitator who can optimise collaboration between the different stakeholders.

Sk o lerefo rm

THE CHAOTIC DOMAIN In the chaotic domain there is no connection between cause and effect. It is usually a stressful place to be – imagine a disaster or conflict zone – and therefore, we need to act fast to prevent the situation from getting worse. This is the realm of Novel Practice. The approach to working in a situation like this is:

ACT (do something)


In a fist fight between two crew members at sea, there is no time to find out the reasons behind the conflict. Instead you need to move into action right away to stop the fighting parties and then observe what your intervention has led to. You then act based on your immediate observations. The intention should always be to stabilise the situation to such an extent that we can move it into the complex domain. From there, once the matter has settled down, you can start examining the cause of the conflict with more curiosity. Alternatively, if the ship’s captain assumes the situation is clear or complicated, he might impose his authority to get the fighting parties to behave. This approach won’t address the underlying cause and rarely leads to sustainable solutions.

a systemic perspective



Note your answers on the following questions: Think about a conflict or challenge you experienced recently. If you reflect on the way you acted, which domain do you think you acted from? How might you have acted if you had perceived the situation from one of the other domains?

When we experience disorder we are not able to recognise and define which of the other four domains we are in. In such cases, we will usually act out the approach which corresponds to the domain that is most known or comfortable to us. If we are a group who need to act together we risk that everyone acts from a different domain. Therefore, when we experience disorder, often experienced as confusion, we should pause and gather the necessary information to determine which of the other domains (and therefore approaches) best correspond to this specific situation. Here is an example of how the same situation can be perceived differently and result in different responses. Oliver and Christina always get into arguments with each other. It creates a lot of unrest around them and it often ends in a fist fight. If you perceive the problem as a clear problem, the solution is simple: Oliver and Christina just need to stay away from each other during class. If you perceive the problem as a complicated problem you might call the school psychologist or the student wellbeing counsellor. Based on her assessment and recommendation you proceed to address the problem. If you perceive the problem as a complex problem you know that there are likely many interconnected factors involved. You also understand the importance of viewing the situation from a variety of perspectives and testing different strategies. You could bring it up with your team, you could have a talk with Oliver and Christina’s parents, you could ask Oliver and Christina and perhaps the rest of the class what they think would help the situation. You test different options, observe the reaction to them and when something looks like it is working, you invest your energy into that strategy. If you perceive the problem as chaotic you act quickly in an attempt to bring some order to the situation. You might throw yourself into the fight in an attempt to calm everything down, but the underlying causes will not have been addressed. As we can see from these examples, there are different ways of perceiving the situation, leading to totally different actions and outcomes. Not all are equally helpful in making peace between Oliver and Christina. Therefore, if you work and interact with groups of people, it is crucial to become conscious together and agree on the nature of your specific situation so you can coordinate the actions you take with the results you wish to see. Most people have experience with the clear, the complicated and the chaotic domain. The biggest challenge that we meet in groups, whether in a school, a


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business or a community, is that we tend to respond to complex issues as if they were clear or complicated. We have seen many examples where the lack of a shared language makes it difficult to correctly identify issues, and for the best intentions and well-meant actions to have the desired effect. At other times, we might understand that an issue is complex, but we lack the methods and approaches to navigate and respond appropriately to it. In reality, complexity is a basic premise when we work with learning communities as they are themselves complex. Complexity originates from the two latin words, com which means together, and plex which means comprising a number of parts. As we have seen “complexity” is often confused with ”complicated” but when looking at the etymological origin of the words, it becomes clear that they are indeed two very different things. The second part of the word complicated means folded. When something is complicated it consists of layers that we can take apart and examine separately. However, when something is complex the different parts can not be understood separately, only as a whole. A complex system is conditioned its context – so we cannot move the system out of its context and expect it to act in the same way. This means that we cannot, for example, take one teacher, give her special training and then expect she can go back to the classroom and apply her learning in the same way that she may have done in the context of her training. THE VISUAL METHODS IN LIGHT OF THE CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK The way we perceive a situation affects how we practise Graphic Facilitation. Clear: In the clear domain we use visualisation as instructions, similar to those found, for example, in an Ikea instruction manual. Complicated: In the complicated domain we use visualisation to provide an overview and clarity, similar to a technical drawing of buildings, machine or strategy.

Complex: Graphic Facilitation can play a powerful role in navigating and communicating complex challenges. By using visual methods we can create more clarity around the dynamics of the system, the paradoxes that are present, the issues that are at stake, and on that basis, create new solutions together.

Chaotic: Visualisation or Graphic Facilitation is rarely used in chaotic situations. It is commonly not used until the situation is stabilised.

a systemic perspective


Systems Thinking A school, like any organisation, cannot be reduced to its constituent parts in an attempt to understand them separately. We need to try to make sense and generate understanding using a systems perspective. Systems Thinking, we see the different components of a system, e.g. staff, students and parents, as interconnected parts that influence each other and therefore affect the system as a whole. They are to be understood as a system that is connected within a specific context. The premises of working with learning and change from a systems perspective are as follows: • We cannot force a system to change, but we can gently poke, nudge, motivate and encourage it. • The system only accepts its own solutions. Therefore, it needs to be involved in developing and implementing solutions in order to feel ownership over them. • Every individual in the system perceives and interprets a situation in his own unique way, based on the individual’s experience of the universe he inhabits. So we cannot refer to an objective reality or universe where we all understand things in the same way. Rather, we inhabit a system consisting of multiverses. Only by communicating, talking and acting together can we try to create a shared understanding of reality. (Maturana & Poerksen, 2004)

It is important to understand these mechanisms as they inform how we work and learn to address complex challenges. It helps us understand that new challenges may arise when we begin to implement initiatives that were not developed or approved by the stakeholders most affected. With a shared language and a practice that embraces complexity, and therefore uncertainty, we can help ourselves work with the challenges we face in our organisations. Therefore, it is interesting to take a closer look at the structures and cultures that support learning using the three premises we just described.


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0 “Treating symptoms, teaching to the test, gathering statistics … all of these forms of engagement have something in common … blindness to the complexity of the issue being addressed.” – Nora Bateson

a systemic perspective





Chamos Optimisation


r C







Destructive chaos



os Ch

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The Chaordic Path In the late 1960s, Dee Hock, the founder of the Visa Card, introduced a completely new way of running organisations. He wanted to move away from the mechanistic organisational approaches that have dominated since the industrial revolution, towards a knowledge and innovation-based organisation. For many years it had been common knowledge that hierarchical (top-down) communication channels were not beneficial for generating innovative thinking. Despite the best intentions, simply removing hierarchy usually resulted in anarchy due to the absence of structures and cultures designed to enable effective self-organisation, knowledge-sharing and innovation. Hock introduced the idea of the chaordic organisation (chaordic; blending characteristics of both chaos and order). This broke with the idea that maintaining the status quo was the primary goal of an organisation. The chaordic organisation was designed to be agile, capable of learning, adapting and changing in its environment. Chaordic organisations do this by striking a dynamic balance between chaos and order; navigating the chaordic path, so to speak. The Chaordic Path model consists of four different states shown as overlapping circles: control, order (that which is known), chaos (that which is unknown) and chamos (destructive chaos or fundamental breakdown). It is worth noting here that Snowden’s definition of the term chaotic, as used in the Cynefin framework, is more closely related to chamos than chaos in Hock’s model. These states can be

imagined as a continuum with control at one end and chamos at the other. It is in the overlaps that this model gets interesting.


structures that can embrace both chaos and order. You might already be familiar with some different brainstorming methods or prototyping methods. Using these kinds of chaordic structures, we can develop our knowledge and competencies to create innovative visions and solutions for the future. In contrast to the field of management, where strategic thinking and decision-making is usually left to the “experts”, decision-making in chaordic organisations often occurs through generative dialogue, based on the collective intelligence of a diverse group of stakeholders. In a school context, one example could be when students work with innovation; when there are, be definition, no right answers. In order to work productively, students will need certain structures or frames to guide them in their exploration. Such frames could include the underlying need and purpose for the assignment, the desired outcomes and any limitations they need to consider. It is the teachers’ role to provide this clarity or to support students in clarifying it for themselves. For more detail on this example, see the innovation case described in chapter 7.

The field between control and order represents a mindset, a paradigm of thought that is often associated with management. In this space we invest in generating predictable structures that lead us to predictable results, maintaining and optimising the status quo. The ability to think and manage structures like this is important when we are developing mechanistic systems or technical skills, such as those needed in the aviation industry or the postal service. In contexts like this we need predictability as unexpected results can mean catastrophe. It is often where classical hierarchical structures operate when it comes to communication and decision-making. In a school context, one example could be seen in subjects such as mathematics or languages, whereby students learn the “right answers” by working with formulae, grammar and spelling “structures”. Another example can be seen in schools where the leadership acts in a management role, taking executive decisions by creating schedules based on DESTRUCTIVE CHAOS their knowledge of the available subjects, staff and resourc- In the field between chaos and chamos, both the struces, and what has worked well in the past. tures and the results are unpredictable. This creates stress, uncertainty and meaninglessness which can easily lead to destructive chaos. Destructive chaos arises when expecDEVELOPING NEW THOUGHTS, tations and goals are unclear, when the boundaries are IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS undefined and when we do not know how to contribute. Between chaos and order is the field we describe as the An example of this could be a school project week without chaordic path. To navigate this space we also work with a clear scope and purpose, and with frequent changes in predictable structures, however, they are different struc- leadership. In these situations it is likely that participants tures than the ones we use to maintain order and control. become apathetic or rebellious, regardless of whether we’re Chaordic structures, as we might call them, need to allow in an organisation or classroom. The group will eventually space for unpredictable or unexpected results. In this space, dissolve or self-destruct if the situation is not stabilised. newness and innovation are the goal and emergence is Turning to our ship metaphor, if the crew experiences not only welcome, but invited by design. Hence, we often constant changes in direction without any explanation, or borrow methodologies and tools from disciplines that say the captain leaves the ship without delegating responvalue creativity, innovation and design thinking to create sibility or telling anyone where she is going, then the crew a systemic perspective


might start doubting the captain’s ability to lead. This will lead to a situation where internal disputes are likely to arise about who is in charge and what the correct course is. While these disputes are taking place, the ship will go in whichever direction the wind in blowing. The chaordic path is particularly useful in situations where we set out to learn or create something new. This is the case for Meaningful Learning Communities. For example, when we want to qualify informal learning or turn individual learning into shared knowledge, the need for a predictable structure arises. It can be a structure that we always use, for example, when evaluating projects (see an example in the template library), or a structure that someone from the team has prepared for a specific occasion. The important thing is that the structure has not predefined the answers. This is the collective responsibility of the team. Self-leading teams are encouraged in many schools in Denmark and we can interpret this as a chaordic approach to communication and decision making. Challenges can sometimes occur if the team has insufficient experience with working in chaordic ways and members of the team either try to impose order and control without any real mandate, or experience apathy and conflict due to a lack of structures and shared language. It is crucial within any organisation that we develop a shared language around complexity so we can work with and not against, the challenges that the community will face. When mental models such as the two presented above become part of a group’s shared language, they can be used to support meta-reflections during meetings or discussions. A colleague might pause and say, “I don’t understand your suggestion. From which domain are you perceiving this situation right now?” A shared language is not a panacea for conflict and opposition but it can generate a fundamental curiosity towards, or an understanding of, the way decisions are made, even if they do not seem rational for some of the stakeholders involved. The hope is that decisions can be supported by everyone and that the energy of those involved can then be used constructively.

Note your answers on the following questions: Which situations in your everyday life could benefit from the perspective of chaordic path, where chaos and order co-exist?


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G Summary Being a co-creator and navigating the complexities of Meaningful Learning Communities will inevitably mean confronting existing roles and assumptions. It calls for a chaordic approach and good facilitation, communication and docu­mentation skills. This is where Graphic Facilitation can play an important role in visualising and creating clarity when paradoxes arise, when decisions need to be made in complex contexts, and when multiple stakeholders need to be involved in creating sustainable solutions. In the following chapter we will offer some suggestions for using Graphic Facilitation as a tool for developing Meaningful Learning Communities. Before we go there, we want to invite you to fill in the template on the next page and let your impressions from the Cynefin Framework and the Chaordic Path settle in

TIM These questions are an invitation to look at your own organisation from a systemic perspective. It can be the organisation as a whole, your team or class. You can write straight into the template below or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.



A systemic perspective WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE WHITE BOXES USING KEYWORDS OR SHORT SENTENCES. ADD ICONS IF YOU LIKE. What are the three most impo ant points that you take with you from this chapter and why?

How do your three points translate to your everyday work/study?

What is one thing you are inspired to test, sta ing tomorrow?

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towards a meaningful learning community

Chapter 5

Towards a Meaningful Learning Community 80

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towards a meaningful learning community


All schools, and all organisations for that matter, are learning communities; complex, dynamic, adaptive, ever-changing systems. A learning community has to be a safe space where everyone is free to experiment and develope themselves as learning individuals. Therefore, we need to train students and staff in what we call complexity robustness. Complexity robustness 82

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involves strength, compassion, resilience, flexibility, adaptability and other skills which enable us to thrive while navigating in contexts that are characterised by uncertainty, shifting requirements and fluid agendas. In this chapter we will look at six different practices that students, teachers and leaders can develop in order to achieve this robustness. towards a meaningful learning community


The Six Practices Be self-rel


Set a clear direction

Relate to others

Engage in one's own learning

In our work with teachers and headteachers, building capacity for organisational learning, innovation and creative processes, we have experienced that when these Six Practices are applied collectively, a unique opportunity for learning together arises. The Six Practices are not the only way to establish a Meaningful Learning Community, but we have seen how these practices can have an enormous impact when they are present. We want to share concrete tools and inspiration to demonstrate how you can start practising, both individually and collectively, with students, colleagues and staff.


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Co-c reate

Partic ipatory Leadership

For each practice, we start out with stories that have been shared by students, teachers and headteachers that we have worked with. The stories illustrate some of the challenges we see in different areas of the Danish school system. We hope you can learn from these stories as we look at how the Six Practices contribute to the creation of Meaningful Learning Communities. The stories are not designed to place blame or judgement, but rather highlight opportunities to grow wiser through reflecting on our own experiences and the experiences of others. We want to extend our gratitude to all of those who were willing to share their stories with us.

Two examples: Described simply, practising yoga involves specific movements and positions, executed with the intention of developing physical and mental strength and balance. In medical practice, actions are taken with the intention of healing patients by providing the best possible diagnosis, care and treatment. What medical and yoga practitioners have in common, is an understanding that they will always be learning, evaluating and developing their skills, comThe majority of the work-related activities for a profes- petencies and knowledge. For them there is no arriving at sional in the school take place in one or more of these the finish line as the finish line does not exist. Instead there constellations, which is why it is interesting to look at is a constant, conscious striving towards new knowledge each of them separately. Each of these constellations are and new ways of developing and deepening their practice. subsystems within the organisation and each has its own The journey becomes the destination in itself. structure and culture. In each subsystem the possibility to Similarly we can talk about teaching and learning as a develop the Six Practices, implement new actions and use practice in which teachers work with students in a constant process of mutual learning. Every day and every interacGraphic Facilitation exists. The Six Practices should not be seen as a linear set of tion holds the potential for higher consciousness, new actions where one leads to the other. They are closely in- ideas, new perspectives and new pedagogical approaches. terrelated and are prerequisites to one another. It is important to remember that our intentions affect the way we practice. Imagine how the following two intentions What do we mean by practice? could affect the practice of a teacher: A practice can be described as any activity that you engage “The intention with my teaching is to teach my students in consciously, and that nurtures you and helps you to mathematics to a level which is good enough for them to learn and grow. Practice is about improvement and refine- be able to pass their exams.” “The intention with my mathematics classes is to create a ment, striving towards wholeness, connecting knowledge, competencies and experiences in pursuit of a purpose. learning space for my students where they can experience Understanding “why” we are doing a specific activity – the themselves as courageous and curious individuals who intention behind it – influences the “way” we do the activ- participate actively in the learning space. The way students ity. As any athlete will tell you, practice is not always pleas- react to my teaching is feedback which points me to my ant or comfortable; it can often be challenging or painful. own potential for learning and development.” Both statements are about a mathematics class but the In Danish there is an expression: it is one thing to understand a chart, another to sail a ship. In essence, it means focus areas are different. Neither statement is more right that while you might have understood the theory, this will or wrong than the other but they will most likely lead to not give you the competencies to apply the practice. This different approaches to teaching. is reflected in the centuries-old naval distinction between ordinary seaman, for sailors who have little sailing experience, and able seaman, for sailors who have embodied practice and experience. We are going to look at the Six Practices in different constellations: • Teacher team • Teacher and student • Leadership team • Headteacher and teacher • Students • Headteacher, students and parents

towards a meaningful learning community


Practice 1: Be self-reliant I usually choose the same as my friends when we have to choose what themes to work with in project week; even if the theme doesn’t interest me. I worry that my friends will feel insulted or shocked if I don’t choose them. It feels safe to be in the same group as them, and because I know them I feel confident in sharing my ideas with them. But I also worry that they might freeze me out if I don’t choose to be in the same group as them. – Student in 8th grade

It is important to me that people perceive me as being clever and therefore I only put up my hand when I am 100% sure I know the correct answer to the question. My experience is that it is easier for the students who know they are not the smartest in class to push their way forward and speak up, even though it might not be correct. The other students sometimes laugh if you say something incorrect and then I feel stupid and not a part of the group, which is why I only put up my hand when I know the answer. – Student in 7th grade


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Some years ago, there was a guy in our class who was struggling a lot. The teachers tried to help him but none of the students did anything. I often felt bad about not doing anything, but I also didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t really dare to help him because I worried what my friends would think about me. – Student in 8th grade

These stories from students illustrate situations that occur every day in school. In all four stories, the students’ actions are guided by how they think they will be perceived by the other students. Fear of losing your friends or losing status is often stronger than the motivation for learning something new. We have only heard the voices of students here, but the idea of acting based on the expectations of others is as much of a challenge for adults as it is for children (Brown, 2012). As we see in the three stories, we rob ourselves of possibilities for learning when our actions are driven by fear; in this case, fear of being excluded or ridiculed. Both our well-being and our opportunity to learn are at stake if we navigate based on what others think of us. Therefore, we need to practice self-reliance. Self-reliance can be described as trust in an inner compass made up of self-knowledge and self-compassion. It helps us navigate the difficult choices in life and is a vital element in developing complexity robustness. We see it as the foundation for the other five practices. Self-knowledge can be understood as knowing our own values, strengths, weaknesses and potential for development. Self-knowledge is about being aware of how we respond when we feel vulnerable; we might close down, get angry, speak a lot or speak quickly, get a stomach-ache, etc. It is also about understanding how our actions and behaviours impact others. Self-compassion is about embracing ourselves and owning our own values, strengths, weaknesses, potential for development and vulnerability. Self-compassion is about having a sense of worthiness, even if we feel we are not that good at sports or science, for example, or because we said something we later regretted during a team meeting. towards a meaningful learning community



“If you trade your authenticity for safety you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorder, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

One of the basic premises in complexity is the existence of paradoxes; two simultaneous, seemingly-opposing truths. The students, whose stories we heard earlier in this chapter were facing difficult choices: “Do I choose based on my social life or the learning opportunities? Do I take care of my image or the subject content?” Teachers often find themselves faced with similar dilemmas: “Should I accommodate the majority of the class or the individuals who are struggling in this specific process? Should I focus on what the students will need to know for the exam, or on what motivates them?” For headteachers the question could be: “Should we invest our resources in new facilities or teacher training this coming year, when I know both areas need attention?” When we face such paradoxes as these, it is important to consult our inner compass if we want to avoid apathy or random actions. Of course we need to gather as much information as possible but we must also trust the signals we get from our inner compass, our intuition, and add that as a significant argument to the equation. For some it helps to create an overview using the visual methods to find the balance between information and intuition. By training self-reliance, the individual builds strength in navigating situations without too much external control. Students’ capacity for self-reliance can be observed when they are not under supervision, for example, when they are working in groups or during breaks. With staff we see self-reliance (or not, as the case may be) during self-organised teamwork. If there is generally a low level of self-reliance, the atmosphere can be tense and levels of conflict high. If we work actively with self-reliance, we reflect on who we are, what is important to us, and what our values are. It is not about self-realisation and navel-gazing, it is about being able to take responsibility for oneself in the communities to which we belong (Meier, 2016).

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-RELIANCE IN LEARNING If there is no coherence between our inner compass and our actions, we lose our authenticity. We might have said yes to something because we knew it would give us recognition, but there is always a part of us that knows if we did not want to do it. As was the case in the students’ stories, most of us compromise our authenticity because we worry what other people think of us (Brown, 2012). 88

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What was my intention with this action?

We can examine our own authenticity in a specific situation by reflecting on these questions: What was the intention behind my action? • To come across as clever? • To receive recognition? • To get others to like me? • To avoid making a fool of myself? • To avoid being excluded from the community? • To speak my mind, even though it might not be popular?

If we navigate based on other people’s opinions, we first of all risk losing ourselves in trying to meet their expectations. Secondly, it can become a barrier to healthy learning experiences if fear rather than curiosity motivates how we engage. There is a direct link between self-reliance and well-being (Juul, Høeg, Bertelsen, Stubberup, Hildebrandt, & Jensen, 2012) and between well-being and learning (Louise Klinge 2019). This means there has to be a balance between the opinions of others – our “outer compass” – and our own inner compass. But how do we practise self-reliance? Helle Jensen and a group of colleagues wrote a book called, “Empathy – that which keeps the world together”. In it they describe how silence plays a significant role in self-reliance. We have to slow down to be able to sense into what we actually think and feel. It is also important that teachers and headteachers act as role models for students if the culture of the school is to support self-reliance. Therefore, teachers and headteachers have to be trained in self-knowledge and self-compassion so they are able to create a learning space for the students, and for each other, that can encompass both.

VISUAL METHODS TO SUPPORT SELF-RELIANCE Self-reliance can be practised through calm, quiet exercises. These could be individual reflection, collaborative physical exercises, meditation, or by generally slowing down the pace and lowering the sound level in the classroom. Of course the entire day does not have to be in slow motion, but it is important to be able to shift gears in your teaching and in group work so there is a balance between first and fifth gear. Many of us are accustomed to the higher gears, but in order to drive intentionally at a lower gear we need a different structure. A structure with pauses, silence and a slower pace, paves the way for us to feel ourselves and tune into our inner compass. towards a meaningful learning community


We can use Graphic Facilitation to slow the pace. For some, the activity of drawing has a meditative effect and research suggests that working with art lowers stress levels for many people. The toolbox for Graphic Facilitation can help you teach in a lower gear. Templates provide a clear structure that can help an individual dive into their own values, experiences and opinions on a situation or a specific theme. Let the participants sit still and work independently with the template before they take the content into groups. If the energy level is high you can host a guided meditation or a focusing exercise before filling out the template. You can also use meditation to create a certain atmosphere before students or colleagues start working on the task. If you want to practise self-reliance in groups, we recommend using templates that allow for, and emphasise the value of, holding different opinions. Create a structure in the template that allows for exploring each others’ perspectives and that makes it legitimate to change one’s own perspective. When we make a Visual Presentation we create transparency around whatever it is we wish to communicate. We show our thinking in a very honest way, and in the process of making it we slow down, which gives us time to refine and sharpen the messages. If you are taking Visual Notes on the blackboard as a part of your lesson you will automatically slow down the pace. Drawing might feel more natural for children than it does for adolescents or adults. This is because visual language is not generally recognised as a powerful communication tool to the extent that the spoken and written languages are, so our visual literacy slowly fades out the older we get. All the same, the visual language holds a lot of potential, partly because we can express emotions and moods differently through visual languages than through written and spoken languages can. Visual language can access our subconscious and our intuition in a different way than written and spoken language. When we draw, the focus moves away from us and onto the paper, which is a less vulnerable place to communicate from. It can of course feel vulnerable to draw if you feel insecure about your own drawing style or if your drawings don’t look as you intend them. In this case the task is to speak about that vulnerability and make space for it. If students and staff are not used to drawing, it can help to teach them some basic techniques and provide inspiration for what to draw. It also becomes easier to stand strong in the experience of being incomplete and vulnerable when we no longer equate our competencies, or lack thereof, with our value as humans or as professionals. Therefore, communities in which vulnerability is not seen as a weakness, but is instead welcomed as a natural part of being human, will create a better foundation for practising self-reliance. It will support students in raising their hand even though they are not sure they have the correct answer, or to encourage your colleague to ask for help in an area where they feel challenged. 90

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TIM Here is a chance to anchor the first of the Six Practices before moving on. You can write straight into the template below or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.



Be self-reliant WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE WHITE BOXES USING KEYWORDS OR SHORT SENTENCES. ADD ICONS IF YOU LIKE. What were your three key insights around self-reliance?

What emotions were evoked in you when reading about self-reliance?

What is one thing you could try to invite self-reliance amongst colleagues, staff or students?

What is one thing you could try right now to practise self-reliance for yourself?

towards a meaningful learning community





Practice 2: Relate to others


nce we invited a group of staff to work together with the leadership team to define new rules of conduct to match the school’s vision statement. The leadership team wanted the staff to join the process to ensure ownership and implementation. It became apparent at our meetings that we primarily discussed the things we did not want as rules of conduct. It was difficult to produce anything constructive with all the opinions and agendas in play. Some of the staff actually wanted to keep the old rules while others wanted to leave them behind. Ultimately, we were unsuccessful in building anything constructive or assessing whether ideas were good or bad. We intended to co-create with the staff but we were unable to stay open to the issues they raised; we just couldn’t see their suggestions in a larger context as we were missing an overall purpose that could guide the discussions. Afterwards the leadership team met alone in an attempt to move things forward. We used the input from the process but had difficulties in reaching any conclusions and therefore we were unable to take the process to the next level when we were joined by the staff again. At first


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I thought we had failed to clarify a purpose for what we wanted to achieve and that this was the reason for this difficult process. But when we raised the issues of the lack of purpose within the leadership team it became clear that we couldn’t agree on a purpose because internal relational conflicts were standing in the way. When we gathered as a leadership team, the lack of trust was often expressed. Nobody wanted to compromise or take a lead on the project. We were working against each other rather than finding shared clarity so we could provide a sense of direction for the staff. No one from the leadership team took charge at the meetings with the staff. The collaboration process became a reflection of the lack of collaboration within the leadership team. We still haven’t reached our goal with this project even though the deadline has long been exceeded. I experienced that we, in the leadership team, came across as poor role models to our staff, when what we want is to inspire them to work as teams and to deliver on time. – Head of Department

WHY IS IT RELEVANT TO EXPLORE RELATIONSHIPS IN A LEARNING CONTEXT? This story could just as well have played out in a teacher team, among a group of students or in our metaphor on the sailing boat. It is a great example on how human relationships affect the possibilities for learning. The lack of trust in the leadership team made it difficult for the group to take leadership and involve teachers in a meaningful way. It also robbed the teachers of an opportunity to learn something new about well-functioning team work. Relationships can be both healthy and unhealthy. They are often the direct cause of our ability to thrive, or not (Law, 2001). Therefore, unhealthy relationships stand in the way of learning and growth. If we want to create a Meaningful Learning Community we need to tend to the healthy relationships that already exist and have the courage to address the conflicts that will surely arise. Organisations, teams, communities etc., are all made up of relationships and the survival of the organisation is dependent on these relationships (Haslebo, 2004). In the South African philosophy Ubuntu, relationships are seen as the very proof that we exist at all. Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains Ubuntu as a philosophy in which a person is a person because of other people. We are not people because we can think, we are people because we belong in a community, involved with others and sharing ourselves with others. The desire to connect to other human beings is a biological prerequisite that we carry with us from childhood (Lauridsen, 2016). Babies can be seriously psychologically harmed if they do not experience intimacy and connection. Relationships are also important for our survival and humans will go to great lengths to feel that they are a part of something. Relationships do not only have a social function. An individual’s learning process is positively influenced by being part of a healthy community. According to Vygotsky (1997), students learn more by being together than being alone. In their book Young Adults’ Motivation in High School, Mette Pless et al. (2015) points out that relationships are one of the five motivational factors that influence young adults’ learning in the later school years. Healthy relationships at school and in the classroom are crucial for the existence of a Meaningful Learning Community.

“When you have a teacher that you like as a person, and you feel he likes the students as well, then you get more motivated for learning what that person is teaching – even if it is difficult. When I have teachers I don’t connect with, I become more critical of the content in the classes and I don’t try to find meaning in what they present to me to the same extent.” – Student in 8th grade

The students use approximately half of their waking hours in school, so this community plays a big part in their lives and has a huge influence on their well-being and on their learning opportunities. In order to form and engage in healthy relationships, students need to be able to feel empathy and compassion and dare to be vulnerable – all qualities that we touched upon in the previous section on self-reliance. It is essential for teachers and headteachers to role model healthy relationships in the school so that students experience a culture where healthy relationships are the natural way of being together. This towards a meaningful learning community


“An individual is never engaged with another human being without holding a part of the other’s life in his hands.” – K .E. Løgstrup (1905-1981), Danish theologian and philosopher

is also how it must be on a ship. The captain, first mate and officers inform the culture on the ship. Practising empathy, compassion and vulnerability are made easier by asking genuine questions, listening deeply, being curious and sharing stories. These are not necessarily easy things to work with but they are crucial in building healthy relationships, being creative, leading others, and building resilience to thrive and to co-create.

group members contribute, negotiate, agree and present the shared results. The presentation becomes a tangible manifestation of the collaboration in which each individual can see themselves and their efforts. Working together on a big piece of paper is not guaranteed to lead to healthy relationships. However, with a few guiding principles it can be a productive exercise. For example, you can invite the students to listen with curiosity to each other’s perspectives, build on each other’s ideas, or even design an assignment with the success criteria that VISUAL METHODS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY their collective presentation must reflect at least one idea LEARNING RELATIONSHIPS from each group member. When we begin to listen to We can use visual methods in different ways when working each other and create together, relationships are formed with relationships. In its essence, Graphic Facilitation goes as a by-product. hand in hand with Desmund Tutu’s statement that we need Visual storytelling is another way of strengthening reto give something of ourselves in order to take part in a lationships in the classroom. For instance, each student community. When you draw in a learning situation or a draws one or more situations from their life. Forming pairs, meeting, you offer something to the community. You give students share their life stories using the images. After each your colleagues or your students an opportunity to see you has shared a personal story, they switch images and retell through your drawing, appreciate your contribution and their partner’s story while putting themselves in their partner’s shoes. This exercise is an example of how to practise connect to you through that contribution. Another example would be to co-create a Visual Pre- empathy and compassion as a part of the relational work. sentation. The content of the presentation takes form as 94

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Take time-out fro reading and digest the paragraph about relating to others by answering the questions below. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.



When have you experienced that relationships were the defining factor in the success of a project? What happened?

When have you experienced that relationships were a defining factor in a project that did not succeed? What happened?

What does being empathic, compassionate and vulnerable mean to you?

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Practice 3: Co-create


was teaching a combined class of 5th and 6th grade students. The classes were always chaotic and noisy and it was challenging for the students to focus. We had the classic troublemaker who attracted other students to join him in the trouble. One student, who had had bad experiences at his previous school and challenges at home, was struggling to be in the class. There were also good and conscientious students who were bored and this became a challenge. The students were aware that the class was not functioning and among the teachers there was also a lot of talk about the fact that the class was not functioning. There were several different explanations: “It is because of their age, it is because of Henrik, the gap between abilities is too big within the different subjects”, etc. The closest we got to a shared understanding of the problem, was that the culture within the class was unhealthy and this was making it very difficult to teach. As a new teacher, I was unsure how to approach it, so I tried different things. I tried to be really clear in framing each class, providing clear structures and connecting with the


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students on an individual level. I asked other teachers for advice, but despite these efforts I could not seem to shift the dynamics in the class. The other teachers’ experiences were similar. I thought that if we were going to change the culture we needed a joint effort. The students needed clear and consistent structures and not to have different teachers trying different approaches all the time. I tried to initiate a joint approach but we never achieved it. I couldn’t get the other teachers to commit to a thorough co-creation process in which we decided what to do together as a team. Some teachers were passive, others made their own initiatives. None of this led to any significant change. None of us could crack the code. In my view it was because our efforts were very sporadic and not wellthought through. As a consequence, we created a monster. All that the teachers, students and parents could do was to wait for the class to be divided at the beginning of the new school year, and hope that this would solve the problem. – Teacher in 4th – 6th grade

CO-CREATION AS AN APPROACH It can be quite a challenge to create alignment and coherence for a class when as the teacher, you are often alone with the class and you don’t have the opportunity to observe how your colleagues work with them. Classes also contain different personalities, which make some approaches well-suited for some students and not for others. Looking at our example above, we do not know why there was a lack of enthusiasm for initiating a joint effort, but it is clear that there was no shared ownership or commitment among the group of teachers to come up with a shared strategy. This limited the possibilities for creating change in the class. Co-creation is a popular term used by many people in different contexts. Therefore, we find it important to be very clear how we use the concept in this specific context. Co-creation, or creating together, has special potential when working with complex issues. As we discussed in Chapter 4, complex issues are characterised by the fact that we need the perspectives of multiple stakeholders to begin to understand and address them. As we see in the example on the left, we need to involve more people in the process to find solutions that are truly innovative and sustainable and not based yesterday’s thinking. An important principle of inviting co-creation is to ensure that the participants have a stake in finding a solution, and feel they have something of value to contribute to a solution. In this example, a different approach could have been to ask for the outside help of a neutral party to facilitate a co-creation process involving both teachers and students. Co-creation is based on collective intelligence. When we work with co-creation, we work from the assumption that when we create together, the result is more than the sum of its parts. As the example shows, by working alone and attempting to stick together individual solutions, we miss out on the value of collective intelligence in the group. Innovative ideas, sustainable solutions and anchoring are all a result of a co-creation process, and because everybody has contributed, everybody feels ownership and everybody wants to see the idea or project succeed. This perspective draws on systems thinking and the reality that a system – a ship, a school, a team or a class – only accepts its own solutions. These solutions have to be closely connected to the context in which they will be implemented (see Chapter 5 for more on this). In order to co-create we need to embrace the paradoxes that are inevitable in a complex system. One example of a paradox in the classroom that most teachers recognise, is that of creating an inclusive learning environment while offering support to those students with special needs. We also need to be willing to accept different realities exists simultaneously. This is where the recognition of multiverses is especially important. It is not always easy to co-create. Therefore, everyone involved must feel contowards a meaningful learning community


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

nected to the purpose and to each other. It is when the co-creation process gets difficult, that relationship (to purpose and each other) becomes a motivating factor to continue the work. It is important to highlight that we differentiate between collaboration and co-creation. In essence, we understand collaboration to mean working together; dividing tasks so that we may become more effective. In contrast, co-creation is about collectively creating something new. Co-creation can seem slow, time consuming and difficult to prioritise when we are under pressure, but from a systems perspective, co-created solutions will often be more robust and sustainable in the long run. This is because we feel ownership and we have engaged with complexity in the process.

HOW DO WE CO-CREATE? Co-creation can take place in different ways. In the section below we present four approaches, each described by leadership consultant Jens Ulrich from via University College in Denmark (Fig. 5.1). What the four approaches have in common is that they define clear goals and procedures for the co-creation process and that the work must lead to concrete results. Where the four approaches differ is in relation to who defines the goals and procedures, who has final decision-making power and is responsible for implementation. It is important to clarify these parameters before the co-creation process begins so the boundaries and expectations are clear for participants. Without this clarity we risk that participants’ motivation and ownership over the process will be negatively affected.

THE RELEVANCE OF CO-CREATION IN A LEARNING-RELATED CONTEXT Participation and co-creation are considered motivational factors in learning (Gärdenfors, 2011). The beauty of co-creation is that we do not need to know everything ourselves. Instead, each of us needs to become good at recognising our own talents and skills so we can contribute these to the collective. We also need to know our shortcomings, acknowledge with humility what we don’t know or can’t do, and have the courage to ask questions and ask for help. Co-creation is based on the will to learn and to expand one’s own horizons, even when challenged by the perspectives and skills of others. Co-creation is about moving beyond the need to convince others that you are right. Co-creation is about growing wiser collectively.


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Unpredictability 5.1 Four approaches to cocreation (inspired by Ulrich, 2016)

Equal co-creation

Facilitated co-creation

Client as key player Managed co-creation






Co-creator as key player

Equal co-creation The teacher or the headteacher (the client) sits at the table as an equal participant among co-creators (students or teachers). Managed co-creation The teacher or the headteacher (the client) sits at the head of the table and has a defining and deciding role. The co-creators contribute with possible solutions but can not influence the final decision-making.

Accountabilitybased co-creation


Students learn to co-create by practising co-creation. It is an important skill because most workplaces expect their staff to co-create and because co-creation has significant value in helping students acquire and develop new learning (Hattie, 2013). Co-creation can be used for developing new ideas for subject specific content, learning approaches ,or for working with culture change in the classroom (as we heard from the story on page 96). Because there is little time set aside for preparing together, it can be very helpful to create a routine or structure for co-creation within your team. Consider agreeing on a process you can use again and again, which ensures that you will get through all three phases of The Diamond (see Chapter 7) – the opening phase, the emergent phase and the closing phase. See the example, “great teamwork” in the library, Chapter 8. For leadership teams, co-creation adds value both within the leadership team and for the school as a whole. The more people we involve in a process, the more perspectives we need to consider and the more complex the process becomes. It is therefore important to clarify the purpose of the co-creation process, who will be affected and as a result, who needs to take part in the process. In situations where we need to develop new initiatives that will significantly impact all teachers, we need to invite all teachers’ voices on the matter. Only then can we hope to generate ownership; a prerequisite for implementation.

Accountability-based co-creation The teacher or the headteacher (the client) sits at the head of the table to clarify goals and ensure motivation. The co-creators contribute with possible solutions within the scope of the goals set by the client. They share the responsibility for implementing solutions. Facilitated co-creation The teacher or the headteacher (the client) facilitates from around the table and is responsible for the process. The process serves to ensure that the co-creators are able to define goals and make collective decisions about possible solutions and implementation.

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VISUAL METHODS TO SUPPORT CO-CREATION Graphic Facilitation is a fantastic tool for supporting co-creation. A Visual Presentation can create clarity around the boundary conditions for the co-creation process; what participants can influence and what is fixed. The presentation can help participants to see the task in a larger context. Furthermore, preparing the presentation is a clarification process in itself, because we need to consider what information will support the participants to contribute in the best possible way. Visual Templates provide structure to an explorative dialogue and document the decisions we make collectively. Everyone has the opportunity to add perspectives to the templates, showing how different ideas and perspectives can be combined to become innovative solutions. Templates also offer clear frames within which participants are invited to contribute. On our ship we have mapped the route on our chart. We need to go from A to B within an estimated time. We engage in a co-creation process to help us to figure out how to get there and to establish who does what. If we encounter challenges along the way, we will need to co-create some more if we want to keep to our intended arrival time. In the next chapter you can find such an example in another school case. When we take Visual Notes together, co-creation happens automatically. We build on each other’s examples and we are inspired by others’ contributions. These contributions generate new ideas that we could not have accessed had we been working alone. Shared Visual Notes become a tangible manifestation of the co-creation. 100

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The four questions in this template offer a starting point for planning a co-creation process focusing on sustainable solutions. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.



Which challenges in your class, team or organisation could benefit from a co-creation approach to find sustainable solutions?

Which question should guide the co-creation process?

Who should pa icipate?

Which of the four co-creation approaches would best suit that process?

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Practice 4: Set a clear direction


he leadership team had given all teachers an entire day to work in teams on whatever we found important. Our teaching team decided to work with the new digital learning platform, something we all needed to understand so we could better integrate it in our classes. We made a loose plan for the day and started out by having breakfast together. Afterwards we went to a classroom and opened the digital platform. Our needs were very different so we just sat there and surfed around in the programme individually or chatted in pairs. One of the teachers found the platform difficult and confusing. She closed down her computer and left the room saying that she needed to prepare something else. After one and a half hours the team was dispersing. I prepared something with another teacher and we got a lot done on that, but I was still left with a sense of disappointment by the end of the day. I felt we had wasted a unique opportunity to grow together as a team. Several others had the same feeling. We agreed that we had lacked a clear purpose for this day. We had no clear roles and the shared responsibility meant that nobody was taking responsibility. It was really a shame. – Teacher in 4th-6th grade


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VISION AND GOALS THAT MATTER As consultants, we work a lot with group facilitation and meeting design. Stories such as this one have been told to us many many times. Often teams lack clear goals and expectations for a meeting, either because the need for meeting is not clear, or because there is insufficient time to prepare for the meeting. In this next section we will provide examples for how to clarify goals and expectations in the classroom, in the teaching team and in the leadership team. To set a clear direction requires an ability to hold a grand vision, to set realistic goals and to be able to make a connection between vision and goals. Goals and visions are defined very differently in different organisations. We choose to define them in the following way: A vision is a guiding star. It is a high-level and value-based articulation of the impact we want to create through our work in the long term. Visions reach into the far future. For example, Ballerup School in Denmark has the following vision: A school with intention and will, is a school that masters renewal, where all children learn with enthusiasm and where everyone contributes to the school community. We may never fully manifest the vision but it brings the community together and sets a clear direction that everybody can relate to. It is important that the vision has relevance in the present moment even though it points to the future, otherwise it will not be an attractor for the community.

“It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.” – Peter Senge

A goal, on the other hand, needs to be concrete. A goal is something you strive to achieve within a certain timeframe, e.g., an hour or six months. We recommend to avoid setting goals more than six months into the future as such goals can be easily forgotten or become irrelevant as circumstances change. An example of a short-term goal: “The learning goal for today’s maths lesson is to understand how to measure angles.” A longer-term goal could be, “for 95% of the students in 9th grade to pass the exams in spring.” Goals can also be intangible and difficult to measure, for example, “to increase wellbeing”. How do we know that we have improved well-being? We need to define what we consider to be signs or indicators of well-being in order to be able to measure, document and discuss the improvements (or lack thereof) that we see. Goals can of course be adjusted over time as the situation changes or as we grow wiser. Both vision and goals need to align with the underlying purpose which explains why we are here in the first place. In a school, this purpose is to learn, and to learn about how we learn. Purpose is the foundation for working towards goals and vision. In Denmark, there has been an extraordinary focus on goals in education since 2015. This includes political goals for Danish schools, the use of learning towards a meaningful learning community


goals in classrooms and the students’ individual learning goals. There are many discussions around whether these goals, and the testing designed to measure progress towards them, actually help students. Even though they might score highly in a test, how do we know if we are measuring the students in something relevant? Many of the goals that Danish schools work with today are standardised and therefore they don’t always serve individual students’ needs. We want to work with goals in a different way. A traveller stops to watch two men who are busy chopping wood. “What are you doing?”, he asks the first man. “I am sawing off these planks to make them the same size”, he replies. “And what are you doing?”, the traveller then asks the other man. The man answers, “I am building a large sailing boat”.

Our argument for using clear visions and goals is based on organisational theory. A clear vision and goals have a huge influence on how an organisation develops and acquires new knowledge and competencies (Senge, 1999). Clear goals alone can not create learning but when we involve students and staff, they generate motivation and meaning. What visions and goals have in common is that they both become driving forces when they are meaningful to stakeholders. Shared visions and goals help us come together, build community and inspire us to do our best. Individual goals help us stay on our own course. Shared goals are most powerful when they align with our goals as individuals.

WORKING WITH VISION AND GOALS IN THE TEACHING TEAM As a teacher you can work with vision and goals on two levels; in the classroom and in the team. In this section we introduce concrete examples to show the difference between the two levels. Visioning and goal setting can be used for aligning expectations, ongoing planning and evaluation. As teachers prepare for a new school year, it can be valuable for the team to connect to the shared vision of the school. As we stated previously, the vision is the guiding star for what we want to achieve through our teaching practice. Therefore, working with the vision involves everyone voicing their own interpretation of the vision. If my interpretation of the vision is very different to my colleagues’ interpretation, and if I am not aware of this, it becomes difficult to collaborate. The school’s vision provides direction, makes it easier for teachers to collaborate and develop as colleagues, guides relationships with students and influences the content chosen for classes. In a school, as in any organisation, there are many things happening at the same time so it can be helpful to visualise the different themes. This enables a focused conversation about different elements while at the same time looking at the whole. The goals you set in your team have to reflect the vision as you interpret it. This means that your goals are aspects of the vision, translated into practical actions. No single goal can express the entire vision, but together, the goals you select should help you move in the direction of your vision.


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Vision for the school:

Goal-setting with students:

Goal-setting in teaching team:

Individual learning goals:

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WORKING WITH VISION AND GOALS IN CLASS At the classroom level we can divide the work of interpreting the vision and goals into the following levels: As we have already mentioned, it is worth considering how (and when) to involve students in interpreting the vision and in formulating goals. The more we are involved in creating and setting goals the more ownership and commitment we feel for the defined goals. It may sound like a challenge in the context of a school because traditionally, it is the teacher who defines the learning goals, usually within the scope of a broader set curriculum. On the other hand, how do we ensure that these learning goals are meaningful and that students feel a sense of ownership when they have not been involved in developing them? One option when working with predefined learning goals is to invite students to reflect on what the goals might mean for them. It could be through a “ping-pong” conversation in pairs, with students reflecting together on the advantages they see in the learning goals. It could also be that students define their own milestones in relation to the overall goal. The most important thing is that the student and the teacher understand the content of the goals so they are able to relate to them. Another option is to invite the students to define other goals themselves. Learning in school is about a lot more than subject specific competencies. It is also about social and personal competencies. Within these areas especially, there is room for each student to define their own learning goals, thereby retaining a sense of ownership and motivation in the learning process. A teenage boy, who found school utterly meaningless, complained to his father, “I don’t understand why I need to learn these things. It makes no sense at all. I will never use it for anything anyway!” The father answered: “I agree with you; sometimes school is meaningless. There have been times though, when what you learned in school made a lot of sense to you and those times will come back. But right now you need to find motivation in something other than the subjects you are being taught, so you can get through this phase where the content of the subjects does not make sense to you. You might want to practise and become an expert in paying attention and putting up your hand, even when the content is boring. You might want to concentrate on learning what helps you learn both boring and exciting things. You might want to practise taking notes and improving your handwriting, because even I can’t read that. You might want to become better at helping your classmates who are also struggling to follow.”


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The class’ interpretation of the school’s vision and the class’ own goals:

The goals of the dif­f erent projects, processes and lessons:

The goals of the individual subjects:

The student’s individual goals as they relate to the goals listed above:

In this scenario the father is encouraging his son to set some individual learning goals for himself, to help him find meaning in the undefined or seemingly meaningless learning goals. The vision and the goals offer direction and help us to think more long-term when we feel stuck in the current moment. However, it is important to be able to show the relationship between the individual assignments and the goals. By visualising the details and the bigger picture, we can support the students in seeing these connections so that day to day tasks feel more meaningful. A sailor on our ship might find it easier to understand why certain techniques using rope and sails are dependent on the larger context of wind and weather, and in turn affect time, money and direction, if all these sub-elements and their relationships are made visible.

WORKING WITH VISION AND GOALS IN THE LEADERSHIP TEAM At the leadership level the same principles apply when it comes to ownership of vision and goals. The more people have been involved in defining the goals, the greater the ownership and commitment. As the leadership team, you stand with one leg in the school and one leg outside as you are representing the school in the extended community, municipality and region. It is your role to build bridges between the visions and goals defined outside the school and those towards a meaningful learning community


A shared vision for schools in the municipality

The vision and goals of each school

The leadership team’s goals

Each headteacher’s individual goals

defined within the school. It is an important task to translate those goals into something meaningful for your school. It can be difficult for teachers, students and parents to relate to visions and goals defined by policy-makers if they are not translated into the context of the school. Last but not least, it is important to remember that the quality of the process used to define the goals is as essential to successful implementation as the goals themselves.

VISUAL METHODS FOR PROVIDING CLEAR DIRECTION When interpreting the vision and formulating goals, the use of a template or Visual Notes can support the dialogue. Both methods offer a shared canvas that can hold different perspectives and surface participants’ different interpretations. When vision and goals are agreed upon, a Visual Presentation is especially helpful for showing the connection between visions and goals and for making the content of the goals visible. Examples could include visualising an agenda for the day, making an overview of a project week or displaying the activities and actions of the school year on the staff room wall. A Visual Presentation like this can serve to help students, teachers and headteachers focus on the vision and goals every day. Find examples of Visual Presentations that focus on vision and goals in Chapter 3 and in the library in Chapter 9. 108

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With this template we invite you to reflect upon how you work with setting clear direction. Think of a project or a theme you are currently engaged in and use that as a case for your reflections. Write straight into the template or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.


Set a clear direction WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE WHITE BOXES USING KEYWORDS OR SHORT SENTENCES. ADD ICONS IF YOU LIKE. Think of a project or theme you are working on at the moment with colleagues or students. What did you do to ensure shared clarity around the purpose and goals of the project/theme?

What is one question you can ask to ensure the whole team or class understands the same vision and goals?

Based on the chapter you just read, what are you inspired to try out when you next work with visioning and goal se ing?

What is one thing you are inspire to test already tomorrow?

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Practice 5: Engage in one’s own learning

I often think that the learning goals are difficult to understand. They contain a lot of words that we don’t know and even when we look up the words they still make no sense. Therefore I don’t understand what we are supposed to use these goals for. In history class for example, I usually spend most of my time paying attention. When the teacher says some of the words that are in the learning goals, I write down what she says but I don’t really understand the content and it quickly gets boring for me. At the same time I worry that I will fall behind. It sometimes helps when the teacher ends the class by talking about and explaining what we have learned in relation to the learning goals. – Student in 8th grade


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I find it difficult to feel motivated by a subject if I don’t know what to use it for later. I often don’t think that the learning goals have any relevance to my everyday life and therefore it is difficult for me to be motivated by what we have to learn. – Student in 8th grade

DEFINING “ENGAGEMENT IN ONE’S OWN LEARNING” Being engaged in one’s own learning is about our ability to reflect and heighten our understanding of how we learn and what prerequisites each of us have for learning. It is also about being engaged in, and feeling ownership over, the process of learning, finding meaning and purpose in it for ourselves. The students’ statements opposite illustrate how difficult it is to fully engage in the learning process if you do not understand the purpose. Only by understanding and connecting to the higher purpose can learning become meaningful. In Denmark, we often use the expression, “to take responsibility for your own learning”. It is used as an empowering statement to suggest that a student can do what is needed to succeed. We find that this statement is often far from the truth in a school context where the teacher still carries a large part of the responsibility for students’ learning. According to Gregory Bateson, learning is not solely dependent on the competencies of the student or the teacher but is also highly dependent on the context (Bateson, 2000). This statement is in alignment with our experience, which is that learning is a complex process in which nobody holds sole responsibility. We want to offer an alternative which is, “to engage in one’s own learning”. This expression does not release the student from responsibility but it points to how they can take the responsibility that is theirs, and how teachers and parents can support this. On our ship, it would be difficult to expect a young sailor to be “responsible for his own learning” with all those ropes and pulleys without the support of the more seasoned sailors onboard. On the other hand, if the young sailor does not engage in the process of learning and understanding, he cannot develop new skills. Because the school is one of the first and the biggest learning communities we meet in life, it is important to train the students to reflect on their own learning processes as well as the content of specific subjects. The student needs to become conscious of what helps him to learn. Teachers and leadership teams must also engage in their own learning as a part of a Meaningful Learning Community. Change is inevitable, and regardless of whether the change comes from within the school, or is imposed from outside, it requires an ability to adapt, acquire new competencies or find new ways to do things. Therefore, it is a great asset to know what helps us learn as individuals and as organisations. If we recognise that we never stop learning as human beings, and that Meaningful Learning Communities are essential for healthy, well-functioning organisations, then we must have an ongoing focus on learning through reflection, feedback, goal setting and curiosity, both as individuals and as a community (Senge, 1999).

Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we were never able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning. – Peter Senge

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Proving is good, improving is better. – James Nottingham

work and by allowing them to track their progress in relation to the goal. . Furthermore, the students can develop their own personal learning goals for the task. The same There are many ways of engaging in one’s own learning. goes for the teacher. Learning goals can relate to subject Three of these, working with feedback, clear goals and specific competencies, social competencies or relational making progression visible, have been identified as es- competencies, etc. sential factors in strengthening students’ learning (Hattie, An important thing to consider when working with learning goals is that even though the goals set a direc2013). Feedback, clear goals and visible progression can be ac- tion for everyone, it is important for each student to be tivated through individual and collective reflection which evaluated in relation to his individual progress. It is only stimulate the participants’ ability to reflect (Argyris, 1999). relevant to compare how far he has progressed from his Reflection helps us to become conscious, it expands our own original standpoint, not how close he is to the goal or possibilities and develops us as humans. Reflection helps to the other students. We use the term progress-oriented us understand what has happened and gives us insight learning, because what is important is the recognition of into how we move forward in the process. Adults are often progress and development, with all the potential challenges prone to answer a question with a solution. In a learning contained herein. Students also become more consious situation, it is often more fruitful for both children and about their own learning processes and are able to take adults to answer a seemingly simple question with a deeper, responsibility for what they have learned. That is worth more complex question which stimulates the participants’ celebrating. ability to reflect.


The quality of learning you gain from evaluation or reflection will be impacted by the quality of the questions you ask. In Chapter 9 we will take a look at the role of questions in different learning situations from the perspective of Karl Tomm’s Four types of questions. Having made working with clear goals a practice in it’s own right (Practice 4 – Set clear direction), we will focus now on feedback and making progress visible.

PROGRESS-ORIENTED LEARNING Clear learning goals are hooks onto which you can plan and design your teaching. In the same way, clear learning goals can support students by providing a direction in their 112

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RECEIVING FEEDBACK AND DEALING WITH CHALLENGES When we learn something new, we need to be aware of what we are learning as well as how we best learn. When a student knows what actions or strategies help him learn, then we can activate them in other learning situations. As discussed previously, we are able to sharpen this awareness through evaluation and reflection. Another way to heighten our awareness is through feedback. Formative feedback can be described as forward-oriented feedback that students receive throughout a process. The advantage of formative feedback is that it gives students the opportunity to implement feedback right away and improve the final results. In contrast, summative feedback is retrospec-

tive and provided after a task is complete. Summative feedback can only be implemented in the next task and is therefore easier to forget. When working with feedback it is important to focus on what helps a person to be receptive to feedback. In our experience, an appreciative approach combined with clear structures can help create a safe space for feedback. Another factor that can help us receive feedback openly is an awareness that adversity is a natural part of any learning process. Mistakes are important steps on the road to learning and mastery. It helps to develop a shared language in the class or in the teaching team for discussing challenges. James Nottingham uses the metaphor of “the pit” as a way to make learning related challenges more tangible and even attractive. The motivation changes when adversity is not a sign of defeat but an indicator of learning. As teachers we can deliberately design “cognitive conflicts” that put students in the learning pit. Students must awaken and strengthen their innate competences in exploring the unknown. This will help them get comfortable with being in the pit. Together, we must find our way out of the pit, either with a more nuanced understanding or with new knowledge and competencies (Nottingham, 2013). We agree with Nottingham’s assertion that this is a crucial skill for any learner living in a world such as ours, characterised as it is by adversity, uncertainty and paradoxes. Therefore, it is so important to train the students to be engaged in both what they know and what they do not (yet) know. Instead of asking, “Put up your hand if you know the answer”, the invitation should be, “Put up your hand if you have a suggestion or a question”.

The solution is to establish conditions that awaken and guide the students’ curiosity. We need more stories and less facts because stories develop our understanding of causality; we need more dialogue and less exchange of information because it is through dialogue we learn most; and we need more challenge and less instruction, because it is through challenges that we develop our body, thought and spirit. – Matthew Lipmann

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1. Concept Choosing a theme/ concept to be explored

4. Consider Reflecting on the process and harvesting learning that can be applied in new contexts

Clarity Confusion 2. Conflict Creating a cognitive conflict in the realisation that there is not one right answer

5.2 James Nottingham describes the process of acquiring new knowledge as “the pit”. Source: “The Learning Challenge − A four step learning inquiry”.

3. Construct The student begins to make sense based on his own knowledge and experience


HOW CAN VISUAL METHODS SUPPORT ENGAGEMENT IN ONE’S OWN LEARNING? Visual Templates can be used to stimulate reflection on one’s learning goals as part of an introduction to a new project. Templates can be created so that they contain predefined goals and also allow students or teachers to add their own goals. This way, predefined goals are clarified and students (or teachers) can engage with them to define their own goals. Furthermore, such completed templates can be used throughout the process to track progression or to give formative feedback. Towards the end of the process the template works as an anchor for evaluation. Visual Presentations and Visual Templates are great tools for allowing students and teachers to enter the pit in a safe way. If the pit is made visible as an expected part of the process, and reflections and insights from all phases of the learning process are documented, we highlight them as equal when it comes to learning something new. This makes it legitimate to be engaged in one’s own learning, both when it is going well and when the road gets bumpy. In Chapter 8 we will take a closer look at how Graphic Facilitation can support the creation of clear structures that help us feel safe when we are in the pit of our learning process. You can find templates that support the process of engaging in one’s own learning in Chapter 9.


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TIM When was the last time you had to learn something new? Was it easy or difficult, fun or boring? Use the template to examine how you, your colleagues and your students approach new learning situations. You can write straight into the template below or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.




What questions could you use in a template to suppo your students or staff to engage in their own learning process? Write down three.

What strategies do you use when you have to learn something new?

What are one or two things from this section you feel inspired to try out?

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Practice 6: Participatory Leadership


or the implementation phase of a new school reform, we (the leadership team) invited all our teachers for a staff meeting. The meeting was facilitated by the labour market representative so we were free to listen and take notes. Each teaching team had seven minutes to present three things that were working well and three things that were not working well in the implementation process. We noticed early on that the majority of the time was spent talking about what was not working. This was repeated ten times, as we have ten teams, so the further we got in the presentations, the heavier the atmosphere became. Because we were still at an early stage in the implementation process, we didn’t have answers or solutions to most of the issues that the teams were raising. Judging by the faces of the staff, I could see that the reform seemed impossible to them. I think we all sat there with the feeling of wanting to just give up. To round off the meeting, our headteacher summarised by saying that the issues raised would be discussed further, but no solutions were given on the spot. Both the staff and leadership team left the meeting in a rather bad mood. Some staff were obviously happy to be able to share their frustra-


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tions and hear that others were struggling with similar problems, but unfortunately the staff that were not experiencing so much frustration got affected by the collective mood. In the leadership team we had the experience of really losing control over the meeting. We almost became just a passive audience. At first we felt ashamed of this loss. It was easy to blame the staff for being so focused on the problems and creating a negative atmosphere. But afterwards we understood that we had allowed it to happen by the way we had designed and framed the meeting. We felt unable to change and adjust the course of the meeting when we saw it was getting off track. In retrospect, it is clear that we should have planned the meeting very differently, but sometimes it just does not go as you imagine. Our leadership team was relatively new at that time and we had not yet really formed as a team. We did not know each other’s competencies and did not have a clear mandate nor expectations about roles. This, among other things, prevented us from being able to take charge of the situation. – Deputy headteacher

FROM DESIRE TO PRACTICE This deputy headteacher is surely not the only one to have planned a participatory meeting with the best of intentions, only to have it unfold in a very different way than intended. In this case it could have been helpful for the leadership team to have spent time sharing limiting beliefs, building trust and clarifying roles within the leadership team. This would have put them in a better position to appreciate and handle the negative feedback from teachers. Secondly, a better understanding of what it takes to design and invite a participatory process, and an understanding of how best to respond to resistance from a group, would certainly have helped the situation. The deputy headteacher expressed a learning from the meeting which was that the leadership team needs to feel grounded and open when they invite staff for participatory meetings. The context, purpose and the desired outcomes of the meeting need to be clearly defined and communicated. Perhaps if the team had sat down and thought about it together, they could have anticipated the need the teachers had to vent frustration. They could have adapted the design to welcome and appreciate the frustration. They could also have made it clear as part of the framing that this meeting was about voicing frustrations and questions for the leadership team to take forward, and that the teachers should not expect immediate answers. In our work in schools we experience a great desire from leadership teams and staff to practise Participatory Leadership. Many people also express that they lack tools, approaches and methodologies to create real value and results using participatory practices. This desire is an important starting point but without the right conditions or frameworks in place, participation can end up doing more harm than good and lead to confusion and mistrust; the opposite of what is intended.

HOW DO WE DEFINE PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP? In many schools the decentralisation of leadership has led to staff working more in self-managing teams. The same is true in classrooms as students now work more independently in groups than they have in the past. When there is no formalised leadership it requires that we are all able to take on leadership at different times. If practising leadership means taking personal responsibility when you see something that needs to be done, this challenges our customary perception that leadership can only be taken by the person with the leadership title. The leadership we talk about here is not a title but a role that anyone – child as well as adult, cleaning staff as well as headteacher – can take on.

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PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP IN THE SCHOOL In Western society, one style of leadership has dominated since the industrial revolution. We often call it “command and control leadership” and it is characterised by hierarchical structures and predominantly male leaders taking executive decisions and giving orders to employees using punishment and reward as motivation. Since the primary goal for industry was profit through efficiency, mass production and the conquering of market shares, factory workers were treated more like cogs in a machine than humans. Work involved executing a predefined task in return for pay and there were very few expectations around learning or self-realisation. Today things are changing. We live in a knowledge society that values agility, creativity and innovation. This requires a different type of leadership in order to achieve these results (Hildebrandt, 2014). Schools in 2020 need to role-model, train and teach the students differently to meet society’s needs for leadership, innovation and agility. As a practice, Participatory Leadership is about being able to take the lead, to invite, to create meaning, to suggest, to stay in the background, to be engaged, to listen and to ask questions – all according to the need. For somebody who takes leadership in the role of a teacher or headteacher, it is also important to be clear on what the “givens” are and what is open for discussion.




5.3 This model illustrates boundary conditions that cannot be changed, along with the space where there is still room to influence.


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BOUNDARY CONDITIONS – THAT WHICH WE CAN NOT INFLUENCE As a leader it is important that you are able to clarify for staff which conditions they are working under. You need to be able to articulate what the schoolstands for, the direction of the school and how it reflects political goals and visions. These are the boundary conditions and they are non-negotiable. These conditions can be direct requirements from a higher authority or they can be conditions that you in the leadership team have agreed upon. The boundary conditions aim to foster transparency, security and trust among the staff. They allow people to come together and contribute with coherency in day-to-day activities. The goal must be that staff are able to find meaning in, or at least accept, the conditions so they can translate them into their daily practice in the school. The clearer you can articulate the connection between the strategic and organisational shifts you are launching, and the vision and goals of the school, the easier it becomes for staff to understand your choices and priorities. When you can clearly articulate the boundary conditions, you draw up a field within which staff can explore and have influence. That could be, for example, the didactic approach, structures for team collaboration or a question of how a specific budget should be managed. This is where the participatory part of your leadership comes into play and where your facilitation skills are called for.

POSSIBILITIES – THAT WHICH WE CAN INFLUENCE At times we experience staff discussing topics related to the boundary conditions. These discussions can be draining, repetitive and demotivating because attention is focused on the non-negotiable aspects of a context. These conversations rarely lead to any change. It is therefore an important part of your leadership role to make clear what staff can influence, and to support them by creating a space in which they can look at opportunities and co-create new solutions. This is where focusing on facilitation is very helpful. The deputy headteacher’s story at the beginning of this section exemplifies what can happen when this is lacking. Carefully consider which questions to engage the staff in and be aware of the extent to which you are merely inviting their opinions or to which you are actually giving them decision-making power. Remember, the more you let the staff develop their own solutions in the space of possibility, the more ownership and commitment they are likely to feel over the decisions that are made. Visual Templates and Visual Notes can support you in facilitating the space of possibility. You can see examples in the cases throughout the book and in the icon library in Chapter 10.

“Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.” – Margaret Wheatley

PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP AMONG TEACHERS As teachers, you have formal leadership in the classroom and potentially also in a subject department. As we saw in the example above, you need to find the balance between directing and facilitating; between clarifying the boundary conditions and inviting students into the space of possibility where they can contribute and influence. You need to make it clear what the students can influence – for example, the culture in the class or subject themes – and what they can not influence – for example, curriculum defined goals. For yourself, the question is similar: “How can I support students in accepting and seeing meaning in the given conditions”? Like the headteacher, you sometimes have to prescribe a direction or be the expert and at other times you must be the facilitator for learning. Once you become aware of the two different leadership roles, you can set the scene for learning in ways that work best for any given situation. Let’s take a look at the teams you are a part of, for example, the leadership team or teacher team. Here it is a very different situation. In many collaborative teams there is no formal leadership and in such cases it is even more important to have a conversation about roles. Your team can define several roles that rotate between you (Albrechtsen, 2013). This constellation is similar to the ones the students are in when they enter into group work in the classroom. If we do not work with explicit roles, the function of leadership will be taken by whoever is either the quickest, the loudests, the most towards a meaningful learning community


confident or something else altogether arbitrary. When this kind of leadership is assumed, personal connection and acceptance defines the followership instead of professional intention and structure. Students themselves can benefit greatly from reflecting on what it means to lead others in a participatory way. They will also learn from how they experience taking leadership amongst peers. Visual Templates can be useful for creating a social contract for the group and bringing more awareness to who should lead what and how. See an example of this on page 129 in the following chapter.



These are the guidelines for the assignment‌


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The visual methods are particularly helpful in clarifying the boundary conditions and highlighting what we are able to influence and change. Visual Presentations work well to clarify boundaries and expectations such as intention, goals and planned activities. Use presentations as a way allow to students and staff to ask clarifying questions about the content. Visual Templates offer a clear framework for what students or staff can influence. Through your questions you can invite students to either give their input or to co-create solutions. You can find examples of Visual Presentations and Visual Templates in the icon library in Chapter 10. Visual Notes are also a very good tool for supporting Participatory Leadership. Visual Notes help large groups of stakeholders to better understand each other by making visible the connections between what is said. Even though you are not providing the content, you are still leading by connecting the inputs as they come in. nputs as they come in. This creates new meaning.



Summary In our experience, the Six Practices are essential for developing and maintaining Meaningful Learning Communities. You can apply these practices in smaller groups of colleagues or students, or experiment with establishing a Meaningful Learning Community by applying them school-wide. In the following chapter we will look at another case from a school. The case is based on a larger process that involves the leadership team, teachers and students. In it, we combine the Six Practises with Graphic Facilitation to enrich the Meaningful Learning Community in the everyday life and work of the school. b


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TIM This template invites you to reflect upon how you can practise Participatory Leadership in your work or study, regardless of your position in the organisation. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.




Write down one or two things that you find inspiring about Pa icipatory Leadership. Where and how could you apply it?

Write down three questions you can ask to invite others to take leadership?

In three words – how would YOU define Pa icipatory Leadership?

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applying the six practices in schools

Chapter 6

Applying the Six Practices in schools


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applying the six practices in schools


ict c a r P x i S e h t h whic in e s a c a t a k o how g Let’s lo in t h g li h ig h e b e’ll W . d e s u g in e b l e u r f g in es a n a e M rt o p n sup a c n io t a it il c a F the y l Graphic p p a o t w o h d s an ie it n u m m o C g in hool. Learn c s e h t in h it w ls leve ll a t a s e ic t and visual tools c ss a e r n P re a w a ss Six e c ith pro and overloaded w c NB. This case is fi

6.1 Visual Presentation on innovation and entrepreneurship.


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We have outlined this case to illustrate how Graphic Facilitation and the Six Practices can be integrated into even the most seemingly inconsequential actions to support Meaningful Learning Communities. We do not expect you to work as consistently with the methods as we do in this case. As you read through, note down what you find most useful. You can then test out different elements in your everyday work and notice the effect. The case involves an 8th grade class at Sunnyhill School. The students are about to embark on a week-long innovation project and Headteacher Jane Beck wants to take the opportunity to implement elements of the new State guidelines around innovation and entrepreneurship. The school has previously worked with Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation so colleagues are already developing an emerging shared language and practice. Even if you are not working in a school context, you can still benefit from the many ideas this case contains and gather inspiration for using Graphic Facilitation in your work. The templates and presentations can easily be adapted to contexts other than the classroom.


Case: Innovation project in 8th grade The Danish Government has recently announced a number

century, and that it makes sense to strengthen these competencies in primary school. She is also aware that it can be a challenge for teachers to find time to integrate this into their classes. Therefore, she decides to use the staff meeting as an opportunity to start an open dialogue about what it could look like to practice innovation and entrepreneurship at Sunnyhill School. At the meeting, Jane starts by talking about why innoPHASE 1: HEADTEACHER PRESENTS THE vation and entrepreneurship are important, and what the GOALS FOR “INNOVATION IN TEACHING” learning objectives are for the students. She also briefly The headteacher at Sunnyhill School, Jane Beck, has pre- describes the terms “innovation” and “entrepreneurship”. pared a presentation about “innovation and entrepreneur- She has created a Visual Presentation to provide clarity ship in primary school” that she will present to teachers at for the teachers. their upcoming staff meeting (Fig. 6.1). Jane recognises that innovation and entrepreneurship Following Jane’s presentation, the teachers are invited to sit are two of the most important competencies of the 21st in their teams and brainstorm on ways innovation and en-

of shared goals for all Danish primary schools to work more consciously with strengthening students’ innovation and entrepreneurship competencies. One of the goals is “for the school to engage with society and for society to engage with the school”.

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6.2 Template for the team to note down their three best ideas for working with innovation and entrepreneurship in class. 6.3 Flip charts where the teachers put up their templates with ideas.


trepreneurship can be integrated in their own classes. For this process Jane has developed a template for each team. On the template they can capture their three best ideas and what they need in order to implement them (Fig. 6.2). Jane has also made three flip charts for harvesting ideas for each of the three age groups in school: 1st–3rd grade, 4th–6th grade and 7th–9th grade. The teams that work with 1st–3rd grade stick their completed template on the first flip chart for 1st–3rd grade. On the flip chart they are able to see the good ideas from other teams working with the same age group. The same goes for 4th–6th grade and 7th–9th grade teams (Fig. 6.3). One of the teachers volunteers to take photos of the flip charts and upload them to a shared Google Drive folder so everyone has access to each other’s ideas. Jane reads through the ideas as well and notes down the following insights. Jane’s conclutions: • The ideas captured by the 1st – 3rd grade teams, and to some extent the 4th – 6th grade teams, are primarily about working with innovation and creativity, whereas entrepreneurship becomes more present in the ideas captured by 7th – 9th grade teams.


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• Only about one third of the ideas can be integrated in the classes as part of existing subjects. The rest require a process that differs from what the current weekly schedule allows, however, there are some great and ambitious ideas in this category. • Some of the ideas require external companies to come in as possible collaborators.

These insights help Jane to see that there are things she can do to create favorable conditions for the teachers to work with innovation and entrepreneurship. Jane’s conclutions: • Balance expectations and possibilities for working with entrepreneurship in the early years of school. • Give the teachers the opportunity to make one of the project weeks an innovation and entrepreneurship week so they can work more intensively with the students on this. • Find out if the school can establish partnerships with other organisations that would value collaboration with a school around this theme.


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PHASE 2: DEVELOPING AN INNOVATION PROJECT IN THE TEACHERS’ TEAM Linda, Berit, Jacob, Oliver and Hafida are all teaching 8th grade. They have decided to hold a team meeting to develop a process which focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship. They want to use one of their own ideas from the the staff meeting as a starting point – a week-long innovation project where students work in groups to solve a task for a local business or organisation. Before the team begins to develop the actual project, they want to make a social contract to ensure a well-functioning and learning-rich collaboration within the team. This social contract also helps the team to balance expectations and to look at their own individual learning goals in relation to the project. The team comes up with a set of questions to answer together. Based on these questions Linda draws up a template on a flip chart for them to fill out together (Fig. 6.4). They have also filled out an individual A4 template regarding their own personal learning goals in relation to the project (Fig. 6.5). The “My learning goals” template is in their shared digital folder. Everytime they embark on a new team project, 128

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they print this template and insert their learning goals. By the end of the project they grade themselves from 1 – 10 on the extent to which they have achieved their goals, and reflect on why they succeeded and/or what could be done differently next time. They divide their meeting into two parts with the first part looking at their social contract and the second part focusing on developing and planning the innovation project. They start out with a round of sharing their individual learning goals. Hafida wants to become better at creating diverse and dynamic lessons and using Graphic Facilitation in her teaching. Oliver wants to focus on co-creation and engagement, both in students’ own learning in the class and in staff ’s own learning in the team. He thinks these are the two most challenging of the Six Practices that the school has been focusing on. He also wants to practise knowledge-sharing on different levels.


Jacob wants to learn from the others in the team by teaching together, and in doing that, gain inspiration on how to communicate with the students. Linda wants to contact businesses and organisations outside the school and involve them in projects. She is curious about how to make contact in ways that make it easy for the other party to say yes to a collaboration. Berit wants to practise giving and receiving feedback, and like Jacob, she hopes to be inspired by working closely with her colleagues.

6.4 The learning template helps each team member to come prepared for the meeting and supports the teachers in focusing on their own learning. 6.5 The social contract is used at the beginning of a new project where the team clarifies goals, roles and expectations.

Afterwards, they fill out the “social contract” template together. It is designed around the following questions: • • • • •

What are our expectations for this project? How do we handle disagreements in the team? What competencies do we have in our team? What mindsets do we want to work with? What are some potential challenges?

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Once they have filled out the social contract, it is time to look at the innovation project. They have also prepared a set of questions for this exercise and Linda has incorporated them into a template on a flipchart (Fig. 6.6). Based on Hafida’s sharing of her learning goals, the team agrees that Hafida should prepare the templates for their next meeting so she can practise Graphic Facilitation. Oliver has printed copies of the three flip charts from the staff meeting. They begin by looking through the posters and highlight good ideas that they could possibly integrate at some point in their process. Next they work through the questions in the project planning template together. They write down input and ideas on post-its and place them on the template so that they can easily move them around or take them away as the process unfolds.

such as the phases of the innovation project, the content of the different phases, which local businesses and organisations they can get in touch with, and the timeline. Once they have finished filling out the project planning template it is time to round off the meeting by defining the next steps and deciding who takes responsibility for what. Together they design a matrix where they write all the tasks and next steps in one column and their deadlines in another. Everyone takes on tasks that relate to their individual learning goals. Together they design a matrix where they write all the tasks and next steps in one column and their deadlines in another (Fig. 6.7). Everyone takes on tasks that relate to their individual learning goals.

As a result of this meeting, they now have a good shared overview and everyone has contributed their ideas and The team begins by clarifying the intention of the proj- inputs. There is a strong sense of ownership from everyect, the learning goals and the questions they want the one in the team about the upcoming project and they students to explore together throughout the project. This are excited to see how the students are going to receive raises other questions for them to discuss such as, “What the task. is innovation?”, “What does it mean to create value for Oliver has knowledge-sharing as one of his learning others?”, “What characterises good collaboration?”, “What goals so he takes on the task of photographing their temis important to be aware of when working with a client?” plates and uploading them to the shared digital folder with a small description of how they have been working – to and “what is entrepreneurship?”. The team then focuses on the more practical aspects inspire their colleagues. 130

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6.6 The project planning template offers shared overview of what the team wants to achieve with the project, who they should involve and what the project should contain.

6.7 The to-do list helps create a shared overview of the tasks that need to be completed. It makes clear whether all the tasks have been delegated and how the responsibility is divided 6.8.b

6.8.a Visual notes support communication at this early stage which often involves exploring many different options and moving in many directions. Ideas are written on post-it notes so they can easily be moved around during the exploration. The notes help to make visible what is being talked about and make it easy to navigate between the different themes and questions. 6.8.b As the team converges and Jacob and Hafida begin to see the bigger picture, they add icons to support the text. These Visual Notes are intended to document development and support the process of understanding. This understanding, not aesthetics, is the primary value of Visual Notes. Therefore, they rarely end up being a beautiful product.


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PHASE 3: PLANNING HOW TO FRAME AND INTRODUCE THE PROJECT TO THE STUDENTS Jacob and Hafida are working together to introduce the project to the 8th grade students. They have a planning meeting to clarify their roles and discuss the best way to communicate the project. First they identify the questions they need to clarify in order for them to have a shared understanding. Hafida writes the questions on an A3 piece of paper and takes Visual Notes during their meeting as they answer the questions (see Figs. 6.8a and 6.8b). During their meeting it becomes clear that some of the questions concern the project as a whole and are therefore relevant for the entire team. Having established this and set those questions aside, Jacob and Hafida decide to focus on the following four questions: 6.10 (previous page) The Visual Presentation of the “innovation week” provides the students with an overview of what they are going to be working on. The presentation can stay in the classroom during the process and the students can return to it when they need to be reminded of the scope of the project. 6.11 The two “learning progression targets” show what the students already know and how their knowledge will expand during the project.


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• How do we create a safe space for the students to engage in the project? • How do we want to communicate the project to the students? • How do we introduce the project and role model in a way that our approach rubs off on the students and is expressed in the activities? • What are our roles on Thursday?

On Thursday after lunch, Jacob and Hafida introduce the project week to the students. Berit has offered to observe so she can provide feedback to Jacob and Hafida. She has not been informed about what they have planned so she is excited to see how they are going to approach the framing and introduction. Jacob opens by sharing briefly that the following week, the whole class will be working in groups on innovation and entrepreneurship. He invites the students to turn to their neighbour and reflect together on the question, “What do you already know about innovation and entrepreneurship?” After reflecting in pairs, they share in plenary. One student says, “Innovation is when you create

Be self-reliant Both through the question, “What do you already know about …?” and “Why do you think it is important to …?”, the students are asked to start with their own understanding, perspective and worldview. These are questions that do not have

fixed answers and therefore they appeal to an indiviuals’ inner compass, self-knowledge (what do I think about this?) and self-compassion (do I dare to participate and offer what I think, even though I don’t kno w whether my answer will be accepted or not?)

Set a clear direc tion When Jacob asks the students to imagine life after school, he creates a connection between the project and the competencies that the students need in order to reach their future goals.

With this small introduction, Jacob and Hafida give the students the opportunity to practise all Six Practices: Relate to others

co- c reate

The students work together in groups.

By making the students’ ideas about innovation and entrepreneurship visible in the templates, Hafida gives the students a feeling of contributing and co-creating a whole.

Engage in one’s own learning

Through the qu estion: “Why do you think it is im portant to …?” each student ge ts to create his or her own sense of what is meaningful fo r engaging in th e project.

something new.” Another says, “In my house we have a water tap that makes boiling water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate – that is innovation.” A third says, “My dad has a bike helmet that looks like a thick scarf. It is like the airbag in a car. That is innovation, because it means that people who don’t want to mess up their hair by wearing a helmet can still cycle safely.” Hafida has made a simple template with two targets on it (Fig. 6.11). In the middle of one of the targets it says “innovation” and in the other it says “entrepreneurship”. She writes the students’ inputs in the inner circle where it says “what do we already know”. The two outer circles are to be filled out half-way through the week and at the end of the week respectively. This way everyone will have a shared picture of how much the students have learned about the subject throughout the project week.

Participatory Leadership With the questions and the templates, the teachers provide clear frames and the students get the freedom to explore, lead and engage in the creation of content through their group work.

Once Hafida has written down some good input in the inner circle, the students are asked to sit in groups of 3–4 people. This time Jacob asks the students to imagine life after they have finished school, when they might go out to find work or start a family, etc. He then asks them the question: “Why do you think it is important to understand and to be able to work with innovation and entrepreneurship?” The students discuss the question in the groups and each group presents three insights in plenary. In their introduction to the project, Jacob and Hafida have already involved the students in the process. They started out by inviting the students to become conscious of what they already know about innovation and entrepreneurship, what the purpose of working with it is, and they start to tickle the students’ curiosity about the subject.

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After the shared reflection on why it is important to work with innovation and entrepreneurship, Hafida talks through the Visual Presentation that shows an overview of the project week (Fig. 6.10). This includes project goals and purposes, the project phases, an explanation of the concrete task students have been assigned and how the students will engage with it. The presentation is based on the clarity that emerged from the initial team meeting and follow-up tasks. All input was then sent to Hafida so she could prepare the presentation. Following the presentation, the students are divided into groups for the project task. Each student is given homework to individually fill out a template with their personal learning goals for the following Monday (Fig. 6.12). The task on Monday morning is for each group to make a social contract (Fig. 6.13). In the afternoon the students will go out and visit their client, a local dairy farmer, who will introduce them to his challenge. The challenge will be the foundation for the students’ work for the rest of the week.

PHASE 4: MONDAY OF THE INNOVATION WEEK – SOCIAL CONTRACT AND INTRODUCING THE ASSIGNMENT Uri, Agnes, Max and Lilli are in the same group. They sit together in the classroom to fill out their social contract. Each of them have brought their templates with individual learning goals, except for Uri, who forgot hers. They decide that the rest of the group should present their learning goals first and Uri can share hers last. When it comes to Uri’s turn, Max volunteers to write Uri’s learning goals in the extra template they get from the teacher. When the students are finished writing down their learning goals, they give 136

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their templates to the teacher so the teacher team can read through the subject specific learning goals and add suggestions based on their knowledge and assessment of each student. The group begins to work on the social contract and the students share what motivates them about the project. Max says that he thinks it is “super scary” that someone from a real business is coming to give them the assignment but at the same time he finds it pretty cool. Agnes is excited about doing something that is creative and she likes the idea that they have to present a physical product as a part of their final results. Lilli is already a little nervous about the thought of the big report they have to write next year and she sees this innovation project as a good opportunity to practise report writing. When talking about the challenges they agree that they have little time to invent something completely new and innovative, especially as they won’t know until after lunch what their assignment is. The group finds that they have many strengths: Uri is good at coming up with crazy ideas, Agnes is good at drawing and Max is good at building things. The group agrees that Lilli is really good at writing, though she is a little shy to acknowledge that herself. After lunch the entire class goes to a dairy farm. The dairy farmer, Paul Anderson, shows the students around and then introduces them to his challenge. Paul’s challenge is that over the last 15 years so, many different kinds of bread, all with different shapes and sizes, have come onto the bread market in Denmark. The classic sliced cheese was designed to fit on a slice of rye bread or traditional white bread, but these standards no longer exist. His assignment for the 8th grade students is to develop a new cheese that can fit the many different shapes and sizes of bread that are now in Danish homes. The students’ ideas will be assessed on their degree of originality. They need to come up with something new, so cream cheese is not an option.

6.12 The template helps the student engage in her own learning goals before sharing them in the group. The student is trained to start with what she wants to learn and not what her classmates want to learn. 6.13 The students decide together how they are going to collaborate. This social contract helps students get an overview of the group’s motivation, strengths and challenges so they can be proactive about creating a good learning experience for everyone in the group.

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6.14 6.16


TUESDAY TO FRIDAY DURING THE INNOVATION WEEK Each day during the innovation week, the class starts the day together with students sharing their reflections and getting input from the teachers. On Tuesday morning, Berit and Oliver, summarise the information presented by Paul at the dairy farm. They refer to the Visual Presentation of the innovation week, drawn up by Hafida and now hanging on the wall in the classroom. The poster now has a description of the assignment added to it. Oliver goes through the programme for the rest of the week and asks if there are any clarifications or questions related to the assignment. Team luma, which is what Lilli, Uri, Max and Agnes call their group, meet up after the morning briefing. They are going to work with the assignment based on the 4D Model – a project and process tool with elements found in both Appreciative Inquiry and Design Thinking. The teachers have developed a Visual Template on a flip chart with a set of questions to help scope each of the phases. They recommend that the groups spend one day for each phase. Before the students are left to work with their Discover template, Berit asks the students to share some ideas about how to research and gather information. 138

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6.14 – 6.17 The templates help the students work through the four phases of the 4D model, from the dairy farmer’s challenge to a finished prototype:

DISCOVER: Discover what is already there. DREAM: Let your imagination run wild to dream the ideal future or the ideal product. DESIGN: Let the creative and innovative juices flow to design the best possible solution or the best possible product. DELIVER: Manifest the idea or product in real life.


The first idea comes from Uri who suggests an internet search. Berit asks Uri to be more specific around what to search for. Uri answers, “cheese”. Another student offers, “innovation and cheese”, and a third suggests, “food trends”. Other ideas are shared, such as asking your parents who have many years of experience with making sandwiches for packed lunches. After this shared brainstorm the group work begins. Over the course of the next four days, team luma works with the four Visual Templates. As they complete each template, the group has a short feedback-session with their contact teacher so they can receive some formative feedback. On Wednesday morning, the class is gathered again for a mid-week reflection on what they are learning. The “target” template is used again and the students add their newly acquired knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship to the second circle. This ensures that the students not only learn about the history of cheese and cheese innovation but that they also translate what they are learning into meta-knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship. Friday is the last day of the innovation week. Today team luma and the other groups need to work on three deliverables: 1) Develop a prototype of the product; 2) Prepare the presentation; 3) Create a learning report. Throughout the week, students have been harvesting ideas and learning in applying the six practices in schools



the Deliver template under the headlines report, presentation or product. Alongside their Deliver templates, the groups have been given a Visual Presentation, on a piece of A3 paper, that illustrates which questions the three deliverables need to answer (Fig. 6.18). This guides them in placing their growing knowledge in the appropriate category.


6.18 The students are supported by a Visual Presentation illustrating the deliverables. 6.19 The students’ Visual Presentation helps them communicate the most essential content and sharpens the presentation.


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The following week, the students have to deliver a report and present their product. Paul Anderson has been invited to hear the presentations and is going to choose the three most innovative solutions. Team luma’s idea is inspired by melted cheese which is fluid and therefore suits all types of bread. They have built a model of the product which looks like a tube of mayonnaise and they show it during their presentation. Max and Agnes have also designed a Visual Presentation (Fig. 6.19) that illustrates the user experience of buying, using and consuming the product. Paul offers feedback to all groups on their innovative cheese inventions. He shares two things that he really likes about the products and one thing he considers a challenge. Team luma’s melted cheese idea is awarded third place and Lilli, Uri, Max and Agnes are very satisfied. They are also curious to hear the feedback they will get from the teachers on their report and process.

6.19 applying the six practices in schools



PHASE 5: WRAPPING UP THE INNOVATION WEEK AND EVALUATING THE GROUP WORK The day has come for the groups to get their reports back and to round off the project. The entire teaching team is in the classroom for this concluding session. Before the reports are handed back, the students are invited to participate in a final round of sharing their insights and knowledge about innovation and entrepreneurship. The insights are harvested into the third and final circle on the targets. At last the reports are returned. The groups read their feedback and are given the opportunity to ask questions to their contact teacher if there is something they do not understand. The feedback is based on the following three questions: “What have you accomplished well in relation to the assignment and your learning goals?”, “What would we have liked to see more of?” and, “What good advice do we want to give you?”. Finally, the groups are asked to fill out the evaluation template together (Fig. 6.20). Furthermore, they are to give themselves a grade from 1 to 10, based on the personal learning goals they formulated at the beginning of the project. In each group, students talk about why they chose the grade they did and how it could have been higher. 142

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PHASE 6: EVALUATION IN THE TEAM The teachers, Linda, Berit, Jacob, Oliver and Hafida, have planned an evaluation meeting. They want to reflect together on the innovation week and on what the students got out of it, but also on their own learning and their work as a team. Generally they are satisfied with the results and the way students worked with the assignment. Paul, the dairy farmer, has given them positive feedback and he was impressed with the good balance between imagination and realism in the final products. When discussing the preparation and the execution of the innovation week, they fill out a Keep, Drop and Add template together (Fig. 6.22); something they have previously found useful when evaluating projects. A shared consideration in the team is the balance between structure and freedom, specifically to design opportunities for the students to be more independent with their use of time. It seemed to work really well with the four templates but it could have been interesting to avoid dictating how much time the students spent on each of them.

6.20 The students fill out the evaluation template together and reflect on the results of their collaboration. 6.21 A teacher reflects individually by giving herself a grade in relation to her personal learning goals.

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Then it is time to evaluate what they learned in planning, designing and facilitating the innovation project. The teachers spend five minutes sitting with the learning goal template that they filled out at the first meeting (Fig. 6.21). They grade themselves from 1-10 on how well they think they have achieved their learning goals. Finally, they do a round of sharing their grades and answering the questions: “What am I happy about?”, What am I proud of?”, and “What have I learned in relation to my personal learning goals?” Berit is impressed by how much she has learned in the collaboration with the team and by observing the other teachers working in the classroom. Jacob is happy about the students’ enthusiasm and willingness to collaborate. Oliver is proud of the learning environment they created in the team. He also says that he is learning just as much as the students in a process like this. Linda has gained experience in contacting external businesses and organisations. She has learned how to communicate the mutual benefits of partnering with the school, while also creating clear expectations around the time commitment involved. It turned out that many organisations were interested in collaborating. Hafida feels she has become better at using visual methods – especially templates – and that it is not so important how beautifully they are drawn. The templates helped create a sense of safety when students were working in groups and now she feels a little more confident to let go of control in the classroom.


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PHASE 7: EVALUATION BY THE HEADTEACHER AND PLANNING NEXT STEPS Headteacher Jane has followed the process in 8th grade with interest. She has invited Linda, Hafida, Berit, Jacob and Oliver for a meeting to harvest their learning from the innovation week, and reflect upon how their experience could benefit other teams.. Among the things, the team emphasises is the importance of taking time as a team in the beginning to create a shared foundation for collaboration. From then on, a clear division of roles and a clear summary of “who does what” after each meeting is key to a good process. They agree that it was actually easy to take responsibility and act independently once they had created an overview of the process together. They mention that they ended up spending a lot more time than they intended to, but they see it as a valuable investment because many of the processes, and a lot of the visual material can be reused in future processes. Jane writes all their input on a flipchart and at the end, asks if the team feels she has captured everything correctly. Finally, Jane invites the team to do a short presentation of the process and their learning at the next staff meeting. She promises to find support for setting up an online platform where staff can begin to archive materials and process descriptions for innovation projects and other similar processes. The team is up for the idea and they suggest inviting some students to join the presentation so other teachers can hear their perspectives as well.

6.22 The project evaluation is structured through a template and everyone in the team can contribute. Filling out the template creates the basis for a constructive and future-oriented dialogue. 6.23 The team template puts focus on the teacher’s personal learning. applying the six practices in schools


Based on input from the team, Jane decides to bring the following questions to the leadership team: • How do we best support the teachers’ new ideas and initiatives? • How can we harvest and document learning and experiences from these kinds of projects? • How can we focus more on innovation in our own team? • How can we, in the leadership team, be role models when it comes to experimenting with new ways of working?



In this case, an initiative coming from the leadership is interpreted by the teachers and implemented in the classroom. The innovation week was intended to support the ongoing effort of nurturing Meaningful Learning Communities and therefore, the conscious integration of the Six Practices and Graphic Facilitation was in focus for everyone; students, teachers and leadership. Remember that this is an exemplary case so there should be no expectation that all of the elements need to be implemented. However, many of the elements from the different phases take minimal effort and time after they have been tried a few times. It is also important to remember that the process tools and visual methods you chose for this kind of process can easily be used again and again. Another important advantage that grows through practice is that the more experienced that teachers and students become with these methods, the more predictable and safe the work process becomes. This leaves more energy for everyone to focus on content. In the next chapter we will take a closer look at the model underlying all phases in this case. We call it The Diamond model and it is especially suited to projects and processes that require space for both chaos and order (freedom and structure). 146

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TIM Use the template here to translate the case from the book to your own context. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.




Having read this case, how could you imagine yourself integrating the Six Practices in your work?

What inspires you when you read this case?

How can Graphic Facilitation and the three visual methods suppo your work?

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a structure that can hold both chaos and order

Chapter 7

A structure that can hold both chaos and order


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a structure that can hold both chaos and order



ve r





In this chapter we will take a close r look at the structure underlying Co















innovating/ creating the new


As previously discussed, when we need to develop new knowledge or solutions,

it helps to have a culture that appreciates diverse perspectives and uses chaordic structures that leave space for emergent results (refer to Chapter 5 for more on chaordic structures). A model that helps us understand and design such structures is The Diamond of Participatory Decision-Making (Kaner, 2011), referred to from here on as The Diamond. We will now take a closer look at how to use this model to design generative learning processes.

THE DIAMOND Inspired by Design Thinking and product innovation, The Diamond is a pattern that describes the three generic phases of any innovation process. Moving from questions to insights, the model describes an opening phase (divergence), a creation phase (emergence) and a closing phase (convergence). These three phases possess distinct characteristics and require different approaches, regardless of whether we are exploring a challenge or developing new solutions. When we embark on a process, project or initiative it is usually in response to a need, a challenge or a question. Formulating our intention as a question offers both direction and scope for our shared exploration. A question inspired by a Danish school’s vision could be: “What will it take for Ballerup School to master renewal for the 21st century?” A powerful question at class level could 150

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each of the seven phases of the case we presented in Chapter 7. What about…?

If anything was possible… You could also…?

I dreamt of a school where…?



be: “How can we use our classroom to prototype the kind of society we would like it to be?” You can read more about powerful questions on page 180.

DIVERGENCE – THE OPENING PHASE The divergent phase invites us to dive into and learn as much as we can about our challenge or question. We focus on establishing a deeper understanding of the context, history and subtleties of the topic. When setting out to create something new, it is important that we challenge our assumptions about what is “right”. According to Otto Scharmer (2009), a common mistake is what he calls downloading; regurgitating what we already know. Therefore, it is important to name and then park the standard responses and the obvious solutions, and instead look in places where we wouldn’t normally go. Noting down sub-questions related to our initial question offers new leads to guide the exploration further.

7.1 The Diamond consists of three phases, each of which invites a different kind of process. 7.2 Phase 1: The focus of the divergent phase is to surface all possibilities. 7.3 Phase 2: The emergent phase invites a space for possibility, new insight and higher order thinking.

EMERGENCE – THE CREATION PHASE AND THE “GROAN” ZONE Remember the chaordic path from Chapter 5? The emergent phase is the chaordic space; the field of possibility that incorporates elements of both chaos and order. In the emergent phase we move from gathering informaa structure that can hold both chaos and order



tion into generating new ideas. This involves taking the data and knowledge gathered in the divergent phase (the known), inviting creativity and imagination, and looking for new patterns, meaning and possibilities together (the unknown). In the emergent phase, no ideas are wrong or too far out. The invitation is to say, “Yes, and …” and “What if …”, rather than, “No, but …”, to activate the full capacity of the group’s intelligence. Some people find the emergent phase challenging. Sitting with uncertainty and the not-knowing for an extended amount of time can be messy, confusing and frustrating. This is why the emergent phase is also known as the “groan zone”. However, it is in the emergent phase that we can begin to see new connections between our ideas and therefore, we should resist the urge to rush throug this phase. The longer we can stay here, the more time we allow for new ideas and patterns to form. We can compare the emergent phase to what Nottingham calls the bottom of “the Pit”. Once in the emergent phase, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, having left what we thought we knew behind. In this space trust is important as we have no way of knowing our final destination. We must help ourselves and others, students especially, to be brave in this space. It can help to invite awareness, playfulness and humour to the fact that we find ourselves in the Pit (or the groan zone, depending on which metaphor we chose). It can be helpful to ask questions in this phase to expand our horizons. Here the sub-question could be: “What have we never seen or done before? What could happen if we combine some of the things we can see here?” Continue questioning, try to see things from different angles, deconstruct patterns and try to put them back together again. At some point the fog will disperse and clarity will begin to emerge. 152

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CONVERGENCE – THE CLOSING PHASE We know we are ready to converge when, with sometimes considerable relief, we find that new clarity has been reached. Now comes the time to focus and to clarify the new ideas that have emerged. In the convergent phase we can ask the following questions: “How does our proposed solution address the need (or question) that we started out with?, What needs to shift to make our proposed solution a reality? Who does what, how and when?” In this phase we work towards clarity in the form of answers or new questions. The convergent phase can be very short in comparison to the divergent and emergent phases. For those of us who are very action-oriented, it can feel like a big time investment to stay in the divergent and emergent phases long enough, but if you rush through these phases you will likely end up with solutions that are “more of the same” rather than novel and innovative. When designing a process based on The Diamond it is important to establish a frame with a clear beginning and a clear ending. It is also important to guide students/ colleagues through all three phases, potentially naming each phase to make it explicit. If participants are left in the emergent phase, chaos and confusion could result in them losing motivation and the trust that they can create something together. If we have to pause the process while still in the emergent phase, we can round off by asking questions like these in the group: “Where are we now?”, “What is clear, and what is still unclear?” “What do we need in order to progress from here?” “What are the next steps?” This way, participants get an opportunity to take stock and leave the process in a state where they can pick it up at a later point.


A CHAIN OF DIAMONDS The Diamond pattern is fractal in nature. Longer processes or projects will likely involve a series of smaller diamonds, each representing a divergent/convergent process. If we think back again on our innovation case in Chapter 7, the whole process from phase one to seven is one big diamond. The seven phases also represent seven diamonds, and every one of the seven diamonds again contains a number of diamonds (exercises that all have a beginning, a middle and an end). The clarity from one diamond usually leads to new questions and opens up to another divergent phase in the following diamond. Some diamonds are 10 minutes, others can be two hours or several months.

7.4 Phase 3: The convergent phase invites us to prioritise, choose solutions and implement. 7.5 A process can contain many diamonds in a row.

Next time you plan a process for your students, your team or your staff, try asking yourself the following questions: • How many diamonds are there in the process we are designing? • Which powerful questions are they based upon?

G Summary The Diamond pattern might offer a new lens and language for you to look at a process, however, if you are a teacher, there is a good chance that you are already using the phases of the Diamond when you are teaching. Pay attention to how you begin a lesson, what happens half-way through the lesson, and how you round the lesson off. Understanding this pattern can help us design processes that are more effective when it comes to surfacing what we know, generating new ideas and learning, and manifesting them in action. Graphic Facilitation is a great tool for supporting groups in each phase of The Diamond. We will learn more about that in the following chapter as we invite you into the engine room of Graphic Facilitation and the visual methods. b

a structure that can hold both chaos and order





ECT Next time you plan a process for your students, your team or your staff, try asking yourself the questions in the template below. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.

A Diamond design WRITE YOUR ANSWERS IN THE WHITE BOXES USING KEYWORDS OR SHORT SENTENCES. ADD ICONS IF YOU LIKE. What is the purpose of your next meeting? Write the purpose as a powe ull question.

What do you want to leave the meeting with?

Which 3 – 5 sub-questions should be addressed during the meeting?

Each question has its own diamond. In which order should your sub-questions be placed? Draw them into the big diamond.

Each question has its own li le diamond. In which order should your subquestions be placed? Write them into the big diamond.


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Æ “We can no longer stand at the end of something we visualized in detail and plan backwards from that future. Instead we must stand at the beginning, clear in our mind, with a willingness to be involved in discovery … it asks that we participate rather than plan.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

a structure that can hold both chaos and order


how to practise graphic facilitation

Chapter 8

How to practise Graphic Facilitation 156

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how to practise graphic facilitation


In this chapter we will take a closer look at how you can develop your skills in Graphic Facilitation. We introduce the Five Competencies of Graphic Facilitation and provide inspiration on how to work systematically with the three visual methods: Presentations, Templates and Notes. This is the chapter where you can bring out your pens and markers and begin drawing, visualising and conceptualising.


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In this chapter we will take a closer look at how you can develop your skills in Graphic Facilitation. We introduce the Five Competencies of Graphic Facilitation and provide inspiration on how to work systematically with the three visual methods: Presentations, Templates and Notes. This is the chapter where you can bring out your pens and markers and begin drawing, visualising and concephow to practise graphic facilitation


The Five Competencies “What do I need to know in order to work well with Graphic Facilitation?” There are Five Competencies associated with Graphic Facilitation and they are the same regardless of what context you are working in. In this section we will describe each of those Five Competencies and provide examples for how to practise them.

The competencies are as follows:

Visual Visual thinking and drawing

8.1 Frank & Madsen 2020. The Five Com­petencies of Graphic Facilitation.


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storytelling Powerful questions

The competencies of visual thinking and drawing and organising information influence what we end up seeing on the paper. This is about the icons and the text you choose, what your drawing looks like and where on the paper you place your content. Structured listening and powerful questions provide clarity and enable you to ask into the heart of the matter and capture the essence, and through that, qualify the content of your visual product. Visual storytelling is placed in the middle of the model and represents our ability to create a metaphor with a clear narrative and our ability to present the image as a story.

Visual thinking

Structured listening

Organising and meaning-making

Powerful questions

8.1 how to practise graphic facilitation


Visual thinking and drawing This competence contains two elements. Firstly, it is about our ability to create

an image in our head – this is called an internal visualisation – or to pair information with an existing mental image. Secondly, it is about our ability to draw the image we see inside our head. Some of us will find it easy to create images in our heads but find it difficult or impossible to draw what we see. For others, associating what others say with images is challenging but once they get a picture, have no problem drawing it. For some, both elements are difficult in the beginning.

How do we become aware of the mental visuals we get? Most of us have internal visualisations, so it is actually about training our ability to pay attention to them. Think about your next holiday. Is it a desert island, a busy, colourful city or a dense forest? You are likely to get images in your mind. Or try to have a friend say a word and then you describe in detail what you see. Most likely you will get a visual association with that word, regardless of whether it is a simple or a complex word. Of course there is a difference between describing the mental images of the word DOG and the word CARE. The more complex a word is, the more it takes to describe it. Try describing or drawing the first image you get of CARE and then reflect by yourself or talk with a colleague or friend about why the visualisation looks the way it does. What other images could also represent it?

How do we get the images from our head onto paper? Now we are going to provide you with some tips on how to practise your drawing skills and become more aware of which images and metaphors you choose to use in a given context. 162

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As we have now established, the first step is to note the mental images that arise when you listen to a story, an event or a concept. Notice what your mental images look like and try to remember them. If you want to link an image to a word you can also ask a class or group what images arise for them when they hear a particular word. This way, you also involve the participants. We usually draw the mental images that arise as icons. HOW DO WE DEFINE AN ICON? We often need to draw quickly when working with Graphic Facilitation. An icon is a drawing with irrelevant details removed. It is not about removing all the details but about figuring out what details can be left out and what details should be included for the message to not get lost. The icon can be an image of a single object or an action or it could consist of multiple objects and/or actions linked together.

As we have previously described, the brain works visually (Lauridsen, 2016). This means that if we hear the word CHAIR most of us will see an image of a chair, rather than the letters C-H-A-I-R, in our head. You will associate the word with an experience you have previously had with a chair. Maybe you haven fallen from a chair, maybe you are dreaming of a particular designer chair, or maybe you are sitting uncomfortably at the moment. The more abstract concepts we speak of, the more diverse our mental images become. The mental images we get from abstract concepts are very much contextual and are based on interpretation. They can often be difficult to visualise with just one icon so we use a combination of several icons consisting of people, places, sounds, scents and atmosphere. For example, think about the concept “sustainability”. What mental images do you get when you think of the word in the context of a school? What images do you think a farmer gets? What images do you think an economist gets?

Describe in detail or draw on a piece of paper, the mental images you get when you hear the word: • • • • • •

Team Dialogue Conflict Respect Parental involvement Leadership

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Five vip icons The five VIP icons are a great place to start building your icon library. We suggest you learn them by heart, as they are useful for drawing any learning process or project. The VIP icons are five groups of icons that describe the following key questions: 1. Who: people, types, roles or groups. 2. Where/when: physical places, geographical places, situations and time (past/present/future/dates/hours).



3. What: goals, outcome, results and effect. 4. How: processes, sub-elements, development, phases, the road from A to B. 5. Why: scope, intention and purpose.

By addressing each of these question categories you will ensure that recipients get a comprehensive understanding of the context and content of whatever it is you are communicating. Therefore, it is important to know how to draw them. Here are some examples of ways you can draw the five VIP icons and combine them so they form a coherent whole. The more often you draw them, the safer you will feel when using them. You can find examples of the five VIP icons on page 204. At toolsforschools.dk you can find tutorial videos on how to draw the five VIP icons. GOAL


Present my knowledge to the class


Learn about the solar system



2. Prepare presentation

Find information (Internet and books) Joe


Why 8.2


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Make your icons context specific Icons can have different levels of detail depending on your drawing ability, your drawing speed and what you want to communicate. If you are skilled at drawing it might make sense for you to practise turning down the level of detail so you only use the most important elements. You want to keep the details that support communication but take away whatever could be considered garnish. The more context specific your icons are, the more meaningful they become. We are not interested in making universal icons but we do want to create icons that relate to the specific context they are used in. In order to make icons relevant they have to include something that characterises the specific situation. For example, if you are drawing an icon to represent “team meeting�, you can choose to focus on one relevant aspect.

8.2 This is what it looks like when all five VIP icons are combined in a project description. 8.3 One example of an icon with different levels of detail. Try to draw three different icons and play around with the level of detail.


How are we feeling? Atmosphere: We make sure the space where the meeting is held is inviting.

What are we doing? Physical frame or activity: We often sit in a circle around a table.

What do we want to achieve? The goal of this team meeting: Professional development.

Come up with three icons yourself to illustrate your team meetings.

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The metaphor is a space of negotiation in which we can discuss concretely something which is abstract. – Linda Greve

When you work with a class or with your team it is important to remember that your mental images are your subjective interpretation of what is being experienced. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check with the group to see if they agree with the visual representation. You can also create a visual library for some of the words you use most often in the class or in the team. It can be especially helpful to visualise the more abstract concepts that you use, for example, collaboration, inclusion, facilitation, self-managing teams, etc. When you make icons for these concepts you will need to relate collectively to the way the concepts play out in your work or life. Having a shared visual language focuses attention and makes communication more effective. Spend five minutes every week with the class or with your team making a new shared icon. This exercise can be used for team building or for summing up something you have been discussing.

Metaphors: the visual language of our day-to-day lives The visual language offers an opportunity to unfold abstract concepts using metaphors. According to linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark John166

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son (1980), we can deepen our understanding of a thing by talking about it as another thing. In the introduction we describe a school as a ship. We all know that a school is not a ship but the ship-metaphor helps us understand our own and other’s perceptions of a school. Thereby we get a shared understanding and a shared language about that which is abstract or complex. Using the ship metaphor we can look at the school through questions such as: “What kind of ship does each of us think the school is, and why?” ”What kind of waters are we in right now and how does that feel?” “What is our course and what are we navigating by?” When working with Graphic Facilitation, metaphors are really helpful because they provide inspiration for what icons to draw. Many people use metaphors consciously or unconsciously when they speak. By paying attention to what kind of metaphors people choose, we can obtain additional information about how the person perceives the topic. Here are three examples showing how metaphors are used in our everyday language: When we start paying attention to language, we discover that it is filled with images. Often we do not even need to come up with images ourselves. In Chapter 9 you will find an icon library full of inspiration. Feel free to copy, draw and use these icons as you please.


8.4 “He just kept shooting down/killing off all my arguments”. In this sentence the conversation is based on a war or battle metaphor (inspired by Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). 8.5 “She bought into my idea.” Here the process of convincing someone is talked about as a sale. 8.6 “She is on thin ice.” Here we give the situation a certain character or atmosphere by placing it in a physical environment.

how to practise graphic facilitation


Practice makes perfect Below you will find a set of exercises that strengthen your competencies in visual thinking and drawing.

EXERCISE 1: VIP ICONS Draw the VIP icons over and over again and pay attention to the lines. We want to practise drawing them fast, however it is important that the lines meet so it does not look sloppy. On page 204 you will find examples of vip icons and space for you to copy them. At toolsforschools.dk you can find tutorial videos with instructions for how to draw the vip icons. Remember that the vip icons can be illustrated in many different ways. You chose the expression that suits you best.

EXERCISE 2: SHARE AND STEAL ICONS On page 212 you will find icons that you can start practising immediately. Generally it is a good idea to get inspired by other images and icons and to try copying them. The more you draw, especially if you draw that same thing, the more your hand will begin to master it. Drawing is a skill and you can only get better through practice.

EXERCISE 3: LIBRARY WITH BASIC ICONS Make your own personal library with 10–20 basic icons illustrating the words you use the most. On page 223 there is a space for you to draw your own library. The template can also be printed from toolsforschools.dk. It is also a great exercise to develop 10–20 icons together in the class or in your team for illustrating common concepts, words and situations such as learning, conflict, group work, student or development. Everyone can take part in drawing, e.g. let everyone in the class or team draw the same word, then facilitate a dialogue on which icon you think represents the word best and why. You can also divide the students or staff into smaller groups and give the groups different words to draw. In such exercises we recommend that you draw the icons on separate post-it 168

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What could this mean?

notes. You can take pictures of them or hang them up on a poster in the room. When the icons are hanging in full view they can inspire others.

EXERCISE 4: PICTIONARY This is a fun exercise that can be played with both students and staff. It is a good way to introduce different concepts and it helps you practise visual thinking under time pressure. Divide into groups of 4–5. The teacher is the Gamemaster and writes down different words on pieces of paper. At the start of each round, one person (the drawer) from each group goes up to the Gamemaster to see the chosen word. NB, everybody reads the same word then returns to their group. When the Gamemaster says, “Go!”, all the drawers begin to draw without speaking or writing any words. The group that is the first to guess the word and say it out loud gets a point. Make it clear that the drawers cannot use any of the symbols, letters or numbers which you find on a keyboard – except from arrows. This will result in the loss of a point. It is a good idea if the winning group shows their drawing to everyone in the room so we can learn from each other’s approaches. For every new round the Gamemaster chooses a new word and each group chooses a new drawer.

EXERCISE 5: ASSOCIATION EXERCISE WITH ICON CARDS OR IMAGES There are two simple ways that you can use icon or image cards with the students. Pull out a card, show it to the group and ask, “How many different things can this icon mean?” Alternatively, you can say a word out loud and ask the participants to look at the images until they find one that can represent the word. This exercise can also be used to brainstorm on new themes for project week in class or in the team. Association games also support our understanding of multiverses (see Chapter 4). Therefore, they also have a social value. In the following section we will look at how to organise your content in presentations, templates and notes to create clarity and provide a natural flow. how to practise graphic facilitation






information This competence concerns organising text and icons on

the paper in a way that creates clarity and flow. When you organise your information, it helps to group it in small information clusters. A cluster typically consists of a headline, some icons and text (or bullet points). It is important to leave space – what we refer to as “white space” – between the information clusters so you can distinguish them from one another and avoid one big word cloud. In addition, you want to be conscious of the order and placement of the information clusters to ensure that there is a red thread; a logical flow of information in your presentation. If you have made a visual project description for your students, the information clusters could be around a) the purpose of the project, b) the learning outcomes, c) the project phases and milestones. Another important piece involves prioritising and distilling your content so only necessary and relevant information makes it onto the paper. The composition of your drawing significantly influences how the recipient will relate to it and navigate it. It needs to be clear what the title of the drawing is and what the headlines are. It should also be clear which bodies of text and which icons go with which headlines. Placement, size and colour-coding are all helpful for creating understanding and visual coherence. Another consideration is scale and perspective. When you 170

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have identified your information clusters it is important to remember that what you draw in front has to be bigger than what sits in the middle and what goes at the back. You can also consider whether your story has a movement that goes from A to B, or if the story is about exploring a theme or a situation from different angles. If the content represents a process from A to B we typically organise the visual in a way that it moves left to right (in the direction that you read). If you want to illustrate a situation and see it from different angles, it often works better to compose the drawing starting from the middle.


Middle ground

Foreground 8.7




WeĘťre heading in the right direction, friends




Good work, team we are approaching our destination


If you think physics are boring, look at this!


Stay calm, we will manage Team 3rd grade



Team 7th grade


Up until now we have talked about icons as the main visual element in Graphic Facilitation. When we organise our content we also want to work with visual concepts or metaphors. The visual concept binds the information clusters together and offers a coherent narrative. In our ship example, the coastline, the water and the big ship are all part of the visual concept, which is in this case, the sailing metaphor. If we look at the example with the arrow on page 132, we see what we call an abstract visual concept. Both work well and are used for different purposes. Your ability to organise content on your page has a great impact on the quality of the final result. We have trained people who had very limited drawing abilities, but who possessed a great ability to structure their drawings. They surprised everyone with their Visual Presentations despite funny-looking icons. To help you organise your drawing and create a clear structure we have developed a set of visual guidelines. In the beginning it can be helpful for you to follow them chronologically.

8.7 Notice what is placed in the front, the middle and the back of the illustration. 8.8 The visualisation can be organised in the reading direction or with the focus point in the center of the paper. 8.9 Notice how the information clusters are placed on the Visual Presentation of the ship metaphor. It is important that there is white space between the clusters.

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Visual Guidelines

To w h o m do e s t h is m a t te r ?

o we Wh at d o wa n t t ? ach ie ve


1. CHOOSING YOUR PAPER SIZE The size of paper you choose depends on what is available and what you are going to use it for; template, presentation or notes. Consider whether you are going to copy or scan the final product. Standard A4 and A3 work well when you work alone or in small groups. If you intend to share it with larger groups we recommend that you find a flip chart or cut a piece from a roll of paper, depending on the required size. Fix the large piece of paper to a flat wall in such a way that you draw while being able to reach all the edges of the paper. If you’re drawing digitally (e.g. with a tablet or digital whiteboard), the same principles apply. The final presentation format will help inform a suitable drawing format.

2. FRAME A frame helps viewers to focus on the content of your visual. A frame can be a simple line drawn along the edge of the paper. Frames can be both straight or wavy – choose depending on your target group and what suits your message best. When you start by drawing the frame, it also helps you avoid drawing on the wall.


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3. GRID Divide the paper in 9 or 12 equal sized squares with a pencil. Use these squares to organise and space the content. You can erase the pencil grid when you are done with your drawing.

5. QUESTIONS ON POST-ITS When you make a presentation or a template it is because you either want to answer or find answers to a set of questions. Write down all your questions – one question per post-it. In the beginning it can be helpful to choose a maximum of six headlines so you practise prioritising your material.

Ou r go al

Title What do we wa nt to ach ieve?

4. TITLE The title is the overall description that ties all the content of the drawing togeter. It helps the reader understand what they are about to read or learn about. Choose a title that says something about the content of your drawing. Instead of writing, “reading assignment” or “planning meeting” as your title, you could write, for example, “fantastic stories” or “Inspiring class meeting’’. Place the title at the top of the drawing. Write it in big letters so it stands out from the other text. When you step back and look at the image the title has to be the first thing that catches your eye. If you are working on a large piece of paper it can help to sketch out guidelines with a pencil to ensure the title is straight. Use a dark colour.

6. QUESTIONS ARE MADE INTO HEADLINES ON POST-ITS The questions can act as headlines in and of themselves, or they can be reformulated into words or smaller sentences. For example, it could be that the question, “why are we working with this project” becomes “the purpose of this project” or “purpose”. Write a maximum of one headline per post-it.

Title ?

? ?



7. HEADLINES ORGANISED ON THE PAPER The headlines will help the reader navigate

the content of the visual. Use the grid to organise your headlines so you create a balance in your drawing. Place one headline per space. Make sure the headlines are placed logically in relation to one another and that there is white space between them. Think about whether your image is built from the middle or from left to right.

8. SKETCHING THE VISUAL CONCEPT WITH PENCIL It is a good idea to sketch visual concepts such as roads, horizons, the ocean, big arrows, mountains and sky with a pencil. The visual concept is often placed behind icons and text and should only be drawn up with a pen at the end. However it can be a good idea to sketch it with a pencil to begin with so you can navigate from the visual concept when you place your headlines.

9. DRAW ICONS AND WRITE YOUR BODY OF TEXT ON POST-ITS Choose icons that say something about each headline and what the headline is communicating. Icons help the reader remember the content of your visual. Do not make it into a riddle but choose one or two icons per headline and draw them in a size that can be seen from a distance. Pay attention to the size when you work on a big piece of paper. The final result will be

more interesting to engage with if there is variation, so make sure all icons are not the same size. Remember that what you draw in front should be bigger than what goes at the back. Use short sentences or small text boxes to contain the information you wish to communicate. Think about key words and consider whether the template or the presentation will support a verbal presentation. If so, it does not need to contain all the details. When you work on a big piece of paper, it is important that your text is visible from a distance. You can begin by drawing sketches of text and icons on post-its; this way you can move them around until you find the right place for each of them.

10. CHOOSE COLOUR-CODING AND PEN SIZE WITH CARE Use a minimal colour-palette if possible. Let the colour support the organisation of content so it is easy for the reader to navigate. Choose four to five different colours and practise simplicity. If you are new to Graphic Facilitation we recommend that you write and draw with darker colours. The lighter colours can be used as highlighters and fillers. Use one colour for titles, another for headlines and a third colour for bodies of text and drawing up icons. When you are colouring your icons, you should consider how colours can be used to highlight the content you are communicating. If you use the same colour for different icons it means that those icons are connected. If you use different colours for different icons it means that those communicate different things. Pay attention to the size of your pen nib. Thick pens are good for big pieces of paper and thin pens go well for A4 and A3. You can read more about colour-coding in Chapter 9 and at toolsforschools.dk.

11. WHITE SPACE Only include the most important elements to ensure that the piece of paper is not packed full of drawings. It is important to have white space between the elements in order to demonstrate what belongs together. Do not worry about there being too few icons or colours. Never draw something that does not have a function just because the drawing looks empty.

12. DRAWING HEADLINES, ICONS AND BODIES OF TEXT When all your building blocks are in place you can draw up the whole image. Start with headlines, icons and bodies of text. Finish by drawing up the visual concept. If you wish to use pastels for colouring larger spaces we recommend you do it at the very end. Make sure that the headlines are the same colour and size so it is easy to tell them apart from the body text. As a general rule of thumb, the size of the headlines should be half the size of the title. You can read more about text size in Chapter 9 and at toolsforschools.dk

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Practice makes perfect Below you will find a number of exercises to help you practise organising content and creating an overview.

EXERCISE 1: PERSPECTIVE Draw grid-lines on a piece of paper or use grid or dotted paper to practise perspective drawing to create depth in the image. It is a good idea to practise drawing roads, landscapes, buildings and arrows. Here you can find concrete tips on how to practise perspective: wikihow.com/Draw-Perspective.

EXERCISE 2: TEXT Use practice lines to experiment with the title, headline and body text sizes. The title can have special effects such as shadows. For headlines and bodies of text the important thing to focus on is a clear and readable handwriting. Make sure that the lines in the letters always meet. We also recommend that you use capital letters when you work on a big piece of paper. You can learn more about this on page 229 and at toolsforschools.dk.


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EXERCISE 3: COMBINING ICONS AND TEXT When you are in a meeting or watching the news, you can practise taking notes in the form of keywords or short sentences, and combine them with icons. Let every key word or sentence have one icon and practise choosing an icon which emphasises the essence.

EXERCISE 4: COLOUR-CODES Experiment with the effect of combining different colours. Choose 1-3 basic combinations of 4-5 markers and practise using them in different ways. See page 224-226 and toolsforschools.dk for more inspiration on colour codes. In the following section we will look at structured listening to demonstrate how you can train yourself to find patterns and make sense of content.

how to practise graphic facilitation


Structured listening Structured listening is a listening technique which involves receiving and processing input simultaneously. When you practise structured listening you look for themes, patterns and connections in what you are hearing. Imagine that you are standing in front of the class and analysing an essay. You do not have time to note down everything the students are saying on the blackboard. Instead, you listen for specific themes in the students’ contributions, for example, what characterises the essay genre, who are the main characters in the story, in what context does the story take place, etc. While the students are talking, you connect, note down and distill their input into key words. When you practise structured listening you can imagine – or draw – a coat rack with hooks that you can “hang” the information on. In the example above, the essay analysis is the coat rack and the hooks are the different aspects of the analysis. On one hook you hang all the information about the characters, on another you hang all the information about what characterises the essay genre, on a third you hang information related to the context, etc. We often have to expand by adding more hooks as we go along if the information we receive does not fit on the predefined hooks. If you don’t have predefined hooks, you can use the six key questions from the beginning of this chapter as hooks. All information about the purpose and intention is hung on the why-hook, etc. It is necessary to prioritise and make sense of the information along the way. In order to prioritise well, you need to be able to determine what kind of information you are receiving. Is it someone’s subjective opinion or is it a fact? Is the information about a detail or does it say something about the whole?

We use structured listening particularly when working with Visual Notes. With this method, it is our goal to capture the essence of what we are hearing and convert it into words and images. When we are listening, our focus is on creating 176

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synthesis. There are different approaches to practising structured listening. For instance, you can decide on what to listen for before you begin. In this case the approach is similar to using a template. Another approach is to note down only what stands out for you as you listen. You can then look at your content and reflect on what has come up and why. In this case it is helpful to be aware of your own listening preferences. Some people naturally pay attention to facts and numbers, others on drama and challenges and others on emotions and relations. In some situations, we have the opportunity to ask questions of the participants or invite them to identify what they feel is still missing in our representation. We strongly recommend doing this whenever it is possible. It is also important to be aware that structured listening in the first instance is always a subjective interpretation of what is being shared. The concept of multiverses illustrates that what we each give value to is highly individual. This becomes very clear when we visualise what we hear. Therefore, it is in the interaction with participants that a listener’s syntheses can be refined and become truly representative for a collective. If both drawing and structured listening is new to you, it can take a while to connect the two. It can be difficult staying present with your listening while at the same time concentrating on taking notes and structuring the content. Exercise 3 on the next page offers some suggestions for practice. If you invite students to practise structured listening it will be advantageous to develop templates beforehand. You can develop the template yourself as a part of your preparation and in that way ensure that the students focus on what you find important. The students can themselves phrase questions around the things they want to listen for. It is then a simple matter of answering the questions they have written down. Both approaches are valuable and they support different learning goals.

how to practise graphic facilitation


Practice makes perfect Below you will find a set of exercises to strengthen your competence in structured listening.

EXERCISE 1: MAKING ICONS FOR TEXT When you read a subject-specific text, practise making small icons in the margin to represent the essence of the different sections. This will train your ability to translate the text into visuals and help you remember the content.

EXERCISE 2: FINDING WORDS AND ICONS In any situation where you need to listen, there is an opportunity for you to practise structured listening. Take a blank piece of paper or a notebook, use a thin black marker and two lighter markers, listen for the essence and visualise key words or small sentences with icons. Let go of the idea of having to organise the content and just focus on gathering keywords and icons. Draw and write everything in black. See if you have time to fill in with colour as you go. Most importantly, let go of any expectations around how the end result should look.

EXERCISE 3: STRUCTURED LISTENING FOR MEETINGS, LECTURES OR PODCASTS. Another good time to practise structured listening is when you are listening to a podcast, or when you are in a meeting or a class. Listen for the essence, write down the important points, add icons and structure your content to create coherence. In the beginning you can make it easier by using post-it notes or a template to structure your thinking. 178

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C o n te


Co nten t



C o n te

Conten t


te n



EXERCISE 3.A: STRUCTURED LISTENING USING POST-ITS Write down the key points you hear on post-it notes and place them on an A3 page with a frame and a title. When the podcast, meeting or lecture is over, organise your post-it notes in different themes and give them headlines. When you are done, notice what new insights you gained from the podcast, meeting or lecture by working in this way.

EXERCISE 3.B: STRUCTURED LISTENING USING A TEMPLATE Make a template in advance with questions (hooks) you are curious about. While you listen to the podcast, meeting or lecture, take notes on what you are hearing as it relates to each of your questions.

EXERCISE 3.C: STRUCTURED LISTENING USING BLANK PAPER With this exercise you are going to group your notes – both text and icons – while you are listening. Write the title of the podcast, meeting or lecture in the middle of the paper. As you begin to listen and discover themes, you add “hooks” to your coat rack in the form of headlines around the title. Remember to space the “hooks” out on the page so you can add content without merging the themes into one big word cloud. In the following section we will look at powerful questions and the role they play in guiding our learning and work. how to practise graphic facilitation


Asking powerful questions John Dewey emphasises how learning becomes knowledge and experience

through exploration. In Graphic Facilitation we use powerful questions as the starting point for such exploration. This competence is about being able to ask questions that spark curiosity and inquiry, leading us beyond what we already know and into new, uncharted waters. This is what makes a question powerful.

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge. – Thomas Berger

In his book, Theory-U, Otto Schamer explains that in order to address the challenges we are facing in organisations and society at large, we have to move away from downloading information, opinions and actions that represent patterns and stories from the past. Instead we need to look at and sense the world around us with an open and curious mind, as if seeing it for the first time. Powerful questions are excellent for this purpose because they invoke our curiosity and invite us on a journey of discovery to find answers.

Questioning is the ability to organise our thinking around what we don’t know. – Warren Berger

We use questions as a foundation in all three visual methods. There are different kinds of questions: some questions are good at opening up a conversation, some are good at guiding us into the unknown, and others are good for converging and making decisions. When we talk about powerful questions, we refer to the former divergent and emergent questions that really intrigue us and spark our curiosity. Powerful questions offer direction to our work. The questions you ask determine what type of answers you get and whether you will get an answer at all. If a question is not relevant for students or staff, they will be a distraction rather than being helpful. Therefore, it is important to work with questions that serve your purpose best and get to the core of what you want to focus on. In other words, when applying the visual methods, the quality of your questions not only determines the direction, but also the quality and relevance of your outcomes. 180

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Lineal assumption Strategic Questions

Lineal Questions

Past oriented

Future oriented

Circular Questions

Reflexive Questions 8.10

Circular assumptions FOUR TYPES OF QUESTIONS For inspiration, we will take a look at four types of questions, as developed by psychiatry professor Karl Tomm. The four types are:

8.10 Karl Tomm’s four question directions (1988).

• Lineal questions that are retrospective. Lineal questions are factual and based on “Who did what, where, when and why?” These questions relate to the detective and her work of investigating something that happened. • Strategic questions that point toward the future. Strategic questions tend to open up new avenues of thinking, e.g., “What will you do now to get closer to your goal?” These questions are common for the captain or leadership team when considering what course to set in order to reach a destination. • Circular questions that are retrospective. Circular questions seek out the patterns that connect people, objects, actions, perceptions, ideas, feelings, events, beliefs, contexts, e.g., “How did X and Y affect each other?” The anthropologist asks himself this kind of question in order to understand what is happening in complex situations. • Reflexive questions that point towards the future. Reflexive questions invite an observer perspective on a hypothetical future scenario, e.g., “If we asked Y about what could improve the situation, what would Y answer?” These are the types of questions that a future analyst works with as he invites us to test out future scenarios.

how to practise graphic facilitation


What can we do differently next time?

What could have made brainstorming difficult for the students?

Who does what and when?

How will we measure the success of the project week?

When we look at top half of the vertical axis of the model (Fig. 8.10), the lineal and strategic questions are described as clarifying. With these kinds of questions our intention is to clarify how things have been or how we wish for them to be. These kinds of questions are relevant, for example, in evaluation or goal setting. They could be useful in developing a Visual Template for evaluation or the Visual Presentation of a project. If your visual ethod is based on clarifying questions, it will often make sense to build your visual narrative as a movement from A to B. Circular and reflexive questions are built around the value of perspective, when we want to explore a case from different angles. Visual Templates and Visual Presentations that are based on these kinds of questions are often built outward from the centre of the paper where we also place the given theme. On the horizontal axis we place questions in a time perspective. Lineal and circular questions are retrospective. We use them to reflect on how someone or something was and why it was like that. Strategic and reflexive questions are future oriented. They invite reflection or dialogue about possible future scenarios and action plans. 182

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How else could the project week have looked?

Which activities did we use in the project week?

How do we imagine different students will approach the task?

All question types can be relevant when we work with Graphic Facilitation. Knowing which questions to use when is a matter of knowing what you want to unfold and clarify. You can use all four question types with the three visual methods and often you will find several different question types in one single presentation, template or set of notes. Take a look at the examples above which show different kinds of questions relating to a project week. Highlight whether the questions are lineal, strategic, circular or reflexive, then find out what type of action you think the questions invite? Besides Karl Tomm, there are other sources of inspiration for working with powerful questions. What we hope you take from this section is the understanding that it always matters what question you ask. A question can open up (or close down) a student’s, a student’s or a colleague’s curiosity, creativity, emotions and subject knowledge. The questions you ask yourself and the people around you become the basis for learning, collaboration and the results you create together, in the classroom or in the organisation as a whole. how to practise graphic facilitation


Practice makes perfect Below you will find a set of exercises to help you practise asking powerful questions.

EXERCISE 1: THE QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION When we craft powerful questions, it is important that we get to the core of a challenge or a theme. Grab the questions that come to you first. Write them down and then ask yourself; “What is the question behind each of these questions?� Keep asking this question until you sense you are getting to the core.

EXERCISE 2: THE LITMUS TEST When you are developing questions for a learning process with students or a process with staff, it can be helpful to answer the questions yourself before you ask others. Find out what kind of answers the questions illicit and be critical as to whether it does in fact surface the kind of reflections and answers you are also looking for.


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? ?



EXERCISE 3: QUESTIONS AS THE FOUNDATION FOR A CLASS OR A MEETING Begin a class or meeting by together crafting questions that relate to the theme you are working with. Organise and prioritise the questions and notice the effect of having everyone involved in scoping the specific class or meeting. It might take a while if you are not used to working together in this way with questions, but over time it will become an effective and engaging way to co-create an agenda or lesson plan.

EXERCISE 4: QUESTIONS WE CANNOT ANSWER QUICKLY Powerful questions are often questions we cannot answer quickly. Note down questions you have been asked that did not have a simple or easy answer. How were these questions formulated and do they have some shared characteristics that you could be inspired by? In the following section we will look at how we can connect our visuals to a narrative to further support participants in their understanding of what you are communicating.

how to practise graphic facilitation


“A narrative with a beginning, a middle and an end causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human ability to connect, empathise and make meaning. Story is literally in our dna.” – Paul Zak, neuro economist


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Visual storytelling The fifth competence is visual storytelling. This is the ability to create a narrative

around whatever it is you want to communicate. In this practice it is important that you make yourself aware of the context in which you are communicating. Who are your story’s target group? How do you approach your audience so you can tell a story that is holistic and relevant for them? Both children and adults find it easier to connect to the content of a story than a set of facts. A story increases emotional connection to the content and makes it easier to remember. Storyteller and story-activist Mary Alice Arthur says that, “when we share our knowledge and experiences with others through a story we give something of ourselves. We show vulnerability, which awakens the empathy and compassion of our fellow human beings. Storytelling connects us as humans and in that connection we can experience new ways of seeing things and relating to the perspective of others, even if they are different from ours. Storytelling enables us to expand our own horizons.” Another quality of storytelling is that it activates several areas of the brain at the same time.

My first time in the strawberry fields, it was a warm summer day. I was four years old, walking with my grandmother in the hills. I was wearing my new red sandals. They were still a bit stiff and not particularly comfortable, but my grandmother’s hand was soft and had that special “granny smell” of the milk white soap she always used. We were on our way to the strawberry fields that belonged to “a neighbour”. Coming from the city, I found it hard to understand that you could have a neighbour that lived 5 kilometres away. It was my first time. I looked upwards and saw the swallows playing in the blue sky. Upon arrival, we greeted the neighbor and he gave me an empty cardboard box. He showed us to the field and bent down, lifting the big green leaves showing me the beautiful ripe strawberries hanging under the shade of the leaves. Every strawberry I have ever tasted since has been a pale and inadequate copy of the strawberries I picked and carefully placed in my cardboard box – or should I say, only a few of them ever made it into the cardboard box. When we tell a story like this, different networks in our brains related to taste, emotion and long-term memory are activated. The brain researcher Uri Hasson (2016) has done a number of experiments that show that the same areas are activated in the brains of people listening to the story. An advantage of this is that when listeners recall the story at a later time they have several different entry-points to the information because several areas of the brain were activated and connected as they stored the story in their memory. When our brain and the brains of our listeners are activated in the same areas, our brains become synchronised. This synchronisation is also called mirroring, and can be understood as the storyteller and the listener experiencing the same thing. This mirroring allows people to connect to each other as well as to the story. It is a primal instinct for us to want to connect to other people and feel as if we are part of something together. This is why storytelling is an amazingly powerful tool. When you work with Graphic Facilitation you can make images with or without a narrative. If we were going to introduce a process from A to B it could be communicated through boxes and arrows. But if we insert the A to B movement into a narrative or a metaphor, such as our sailing trip, the recipients’ ability to empathise becomes much stronger. We can use the narrative to create an atmosphere, to unlock emotions and senses, and invite recipients to engage. The narrative also helps us decide which icons and visual concepts make sense to draw in the picture.

“A fact bounces back if it is in contradiction with my worldview − a story can go beyond that. A story invites empathy and compassion.” – Mary Alice Arthur, storyteller & story-activist

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To synchronise brains through visual or verbal storytelling can almost sound like magic. And maybe we need magic today in order to catch people’s attention. It takes a huge effort and a strong story to get both children and adults to immerse themselves and be present. We are really curious about the difference it could make to begin a maths lesson with 25 synchronised brains instead of 25 brains that are mentally in 25 different places. When you create your story it is important to know what purpose it should serve. What do you want to achieve with that exact story? What thoughts is the story designed to activate in the listener’s mind? It is worth considering the following: • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Who plays a role in the story? Where does the story take place? What is the atmosphere? What is the “state of mind” of the storyteller/the class/ the group/the school/the ship? What is prior to the story? What comes after the story? What challenges are there along the way? What possibilities are present? What is the “point of no return”? What are the essential and decisive moments in the story? What questions do we ask ourselves along the way? What are the magical moments?

These questions can become the foundation of a verbal story but they can also serve as inspiration for a template or a presentation. If you want to ask similar questions in a presentation you should not answer all the questions in text form. Some of the points will be described in the drawing through headlines and body text, while others get visualised through icons, visual concepts and colours.


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Learn new

Practice makes perfect Below you will find a number of exercises to strengthen your skills in creating visual stories.

EXERCISE 1: METAPHOR BRAINSTORM Choose a metaphor or a narrative and come up with as many related concepts, icons and visual elements as possible. In this book we have used the narrative of the journey of discovery. What concepts and icons come to mind when you think about this narrative? Write down or draw all your ideas. Look at what they could represent in a maths class, in a project week, in a team collaboration, or something completely different in your school or organisation.

On Adventure Meet new people

Go far away

EXERCISE 2: YOUR OWN STORIES AS INSPIRATION Map out a couple of themes that can be useful for you to add stories to. As a headteacher, it could be a new change initiative at the school. In this case, it can be helpful to think about a previous experience you, as headteacher, have had with changes in the organisation. Choose a story that contains the emotions that might come up during the change process. For some it could be fear and insecurity, for others hope and energy. As a teacher, you might want your students to reflect on the importance of perseverance when something is difficult. In this case, you can share a difficult experience from your own life as a student or an adult and relate how you worked your way through it. It is important that the story is built around one or more key messages and has a natural development. You can try to draw your story and talk from the drawing.

When I was a boy who‌

EXERCISE 3: A SHARED NARRATIVE Invite the class or team to visually map out a process or an event. Write short sentences, draw icons on post-its and place them on a large piece of paper. One option is to use the questions by Karl Tomm or the questions on page 182–183 as inspiration for what you want to map out. If a metaphor comes up during the process it can be integrated into the map to bring coherence. This section on the Five Competencies is meant as inspiration for you to deepen your practice as a Graphic Facilitator. We recommend that you focus on one competence at a time to really strengthen it. Our advice: go to where your energy is. When we do something we truly enjoy, we are able to be more creative and innovative and let go of the need for the perfect question or drawing. In the following section, we are going to put all Five Competencies into action. how to practise graphic facilitation



8.11 If the farmer knows that she wants to harvest carrots in the summer it matters which seeds she sows, when she sows them and how she tends to the plants as they grow. In the same way, you must be aware of what results you wish to harvest with your students or colleagues. We sow seeds in the form of questions and activities, and we tend and nourish the growing crop in a variety of ways. These translate into the different pedagogical approaches you employ until the results are ready to be harvested.


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Planning with the outcome in mind The visual methods in Graphic Facilitation are very useful for making results visible. To ensure that we end up with the right results, we have to add one more concept to our toolbox. This concept is backcasting and it essentially involves planning with your desired outcome as your point of departure. In other words, the questions and activities we design are determined by the result we are looking for from our lesson, process, meeting or project. Throughout the book we have used the term harvesting to describe the practice of capturing and documenting the fruits of our conversations; data, information and insights etc. Inspired by growing practices, the harvesting metaphor can also be applied to the planning and design of all phases of our own processes. A farmer carefully plans which crops is going to harvest throughout the season and then makes sure to have the right seeds at hand at the right time. She prepares the soil before she sows the seeds and she tends the plants as they grow. Finally, she harvests and processes the crops so they can nourish and give life to others. It is hard to imagine that a farmer would invest energy in sowing a crop without knowing first whether the seed was viable or the final crop edible, yet surprisingly, this happens often when it comes to the

way we plan meetings and lessons. We need to start with results in mind when we design and facilitate any kind of process, regardless of whether the purpose is learning or strategic. So it is important that we have given good thought to what we want to achieve with a given process. This goes for processes in the classroom, staff teams or when the entire staff is involved in a project. Results and outcomes can be both tangible and intangible. For example, tangible results could be: an action plan, guidelines for how students could approach a specific science project, a student who is now able to spell “friendship”, or it could be that we have earned 5000 dkk for the camp by organising a flea market. Tangible results are something we can measure. Intangible results are just as important but we can often only measure them indirectly using indicators. For example, it could be that we want the result of a process to be that students have practised collaborating, the team is more creative or that, after the “All Staff Development Day”, staff feel inspired with a deeper sense of trust in each other. We can define what indicators to look for as proof of the results being there and then we can start to measure and document them. Concretely you can ask yourself: • What do the participants need to know after the lesson or the meeting? • What product or artifact do I and/or the participants need to have in their hands (or in their computers) after the lesson/meeting? • What do I hope the participants feel after this lesson/ meeting?

Using Graphic Facilitation we can support communication, ensure that we move through the phases of The Diamond (divergence, emergence and convergence) and document both tangible and intangible results. If you have read the case in Chapter 6, you will have seen how we can integrate the visual methods in different ways throughout the preparation, implementation and evaluation of a process. We often use Visual Presentations in the beginning to provide an overview of the context and process, and again towards the end to show the results we have achieved. how to practise graphic facilitation


Visual Templates work well in the convergent phase. If you use templates in the divergent and emergent phases, we recommend using broad and open-ended questions and inviting participants to use post-it notes when filling out the template so information can be moved around freely. Visual Notes on blank paper are suitable for the divergent and emergent phases. They provide the freedom to create patterns yourself and make new connections. It is not necessary to have all the visual methods activated in all phases of the process. Choose the phases where you expect it to work best. In time, all the visual methods will be embodied and it becomes easier to juggle them. Remember that Visual Templates can often be reused for new processes. In the following section we will look in detail at how you can develop and use the three visual methods.


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The three visual methods in action In this section we will give recommendations on how to approach the visual methods. We will provide some tips and tricks on how to prepare, execute and use visual methods.

Visual Presentations

Field trip to the forest

The Visual Presentation is a visual that you have prepared in advance. You can use it to present a theme, a process or a strategy. The Visual Presentation can replace a PowerPoint presentation and is especially helpful in creating shared clarity around your message or assignment by making content and context visible.

PREPARATION Before you start drawing your Visual Presentation, you should consider three questions: • Who is your audience and what is the context for your presentation? • What do you want to get out of doing your presentation? • What questions and answers could create clarity for your recipients (students or colleagues)?

EXECUTION It can be helpful for you to follow the Visual Guidelines on page 172– 173 when you are making your Visual Presentation. It is important to clarify which headlines provide a good structure and overview for your presentation and identify which short sentences and bullet points can best support your story. This can be a challenging prioritisation process, but it is important for the clarity of your presentation that it does not contain overwhelming amounts of information. On the other hand, preparing your presentation will help you become sharper on your key points and messages.

how to practise graphic facilitation


APPLICATION It is important to remember that the Visual Presentation is a supplement to your verbal presentation. If you are going to present for more than 60-70 people you should consider digitising your presentation and showing it on a large screen. You can either get it scanned at a printing shop or take a photo of it. If you use a digital version, we still recommend that you place the analogue version somewhere in the room so the audience can go and look at it after you have turned off the screen. During the actual presentation it is important that you physically point to the content you are talking about so the presentation does not just become decoration in the background. You can walk back and forth in front of the presentation and interact with it as you speak. It helps recipients to be able to follow where you are in the process. When you point to the presentation and move around in it physically, it also helps recipients remember the presentation because the recipients’ brains will connect your words, your visualisations and your movements to what you have communicated.

Visual Templates Evaluation

Visual Templates are a powerful facilitation tool. Templates provide a clear structure to work within, and invite participation in the creation of content.

PREPARATION Consider the following questions before you begin making a template: • When in the process are you going to use it? • What is the intention for using it? • Who is going to work with it, is it individual, in groups or everyone at once? • What kind of content are you wanting to harvest? What questions are relevant? • How will the content be used afterwards?

EXECUTION There are many similarities between the preparation of Visual Templates and Visual Presentations. Therefore, the Visual Guidelines can also be used for developing templates. We recommend that you keep the headlines as questions on the template because this helps to guide the conversation more precisely. Often templates are used as the “ghost facilitator”, meaning participants can work on the content without you at the table.


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APPLICATION A template can be used in different ways. They can be filled out individually, in smaller groups or as an entire class or teachers team. In all cases, it is important that you first talk through the template to introduce the different questions and explain how participants should document their input in the template. You should also clarify what the content is going to be used for afterwards and how much time the participants have to fill it out. If the template is being used in the divergent or the emergent phases we recommend that participants write all inputs down on post-its for flexibility. If you are using it in the convergent phase it can be a powerful statement of commitment to write directly on the paper. Once the template is filled out it is a good idea to reflect on the results, either in the group or in plenary.

Visual Notes Working with Visual Notes differs from Visual Presentations and Visual Templates in that Visual Notes are made in the moment, either by writing them into empty spaces on the template or as a mindmap on a blank piece of paper. When we work with Visual Notes, we create a synthesis of the content that comes up in real time. Visual notes engage participants in the content by generating an active focus and increased levels of participation. When you draw as part of your learning and sense-making process, you activate more parts of your brain than you would if you simply wrote or typed your notes. When the marker hits the paper, the brain is stimulated through tactile interaction with the content. Seeing the Visual Notes that you have drawn provides a new way of making sense of content. If we compare Visual Notes to digital text notes, most people remember the content better through the use of Visual Notes. When we make Visual Notes we are forced to create a synthesis and choose the parts we find most relevant because we do not have time to transcribe everything. There have been many studies done to compare analogue note-taking with note-taking done on a computer. There is good ground to believe that the process of analogue note-taking contributes to further meaning-creation from the information (van der Meer & van der Welt, 2017).

PREPARATION It is important to differentiate between individual and collective Visual Notes. Individual notes are for your personal use and therefore you have more freedom as to what you pay attention to. It is always a good idea to consider when and where you will be using them afterwards, but we do not always know it in advance. how to practise graphic facilitation


Collective notes can be done by one or more individuals. Collective notes represent the group’s knowledge and insights rather than an individual’s reflections. If you are taking notes alone on behalf of a collective, you can consult the group on what questions and themes the group wants to focus on. Alternatively, after you have finished the notes, you can ask in the group if anything is missing for the picture to be complete. In both situations you can use the following questions to prepare yourself: • What do I already know about the theme that can help me listen in a more structured way? • What am I and the others going to use the notes for afterwards? • What questions am I curious about in relation to the theme?

EXECUTION When you are new to visual note-taking it is important that you do not panic about the fact that you are not able to capture everything. This is in fact the whole point. It is exactly this process of prioritising and interpreting information that is important. When we select content, it kick-starts a process in the brain that connects the new knowledge with previous experience (Lauridsen, 2016). Visual Notes let you interact with the content in different ways simultaneously. You have to both imagine how a certain thing looks (which activates your imagination) and draw what you see, and through that process, the content manifests physically in your body. You can immediately look at what you have drawn and written, and the eye is stimulated again by the content. In situations where Visual Notes are going to be used collectively, it is best, if possible, to involve a small group that is representative of the larger group.

APPLICATION It is always a good idea to go through the Visual Notes together in the group and to ask if something is missing. This way you ensure that everyone feels heard. If notes have been drawn in several groups, it can be interesting to share the three most important insights from each group in plenary. Make sure that the notes are placed on the wall and take photos of them to put in your online archive. You can also invite students to share their individual notes by asking for the most interesting interesting insights. Students can display their notes somewhere in the classroom. It is always exciting to see different perspectives. If you have taken notes on behalf of a group of students or colleagues, you 196

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can invite everyone to join and highlight the elements that either made the biggest impression on them, were new or provoking, or something else. You might invite the group to highlight elements with stickers or by making small dots with a marker. If possible, let the notes stay on the wall for a while after the activity is over so everyone can go and take a look at their own pace. Visual Notes are the most complex, and for most people the most difficult of the three visual methods to practise because they take place in the here and now. At the same time, it is the method that holds the most potential for making content visible, creating clarity and inviting participation when we gather together to solve challenges or learn something new.

“The drawing shows me in one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.” – Ivan Turgenev, Russian writer (1861)

In this chapter you have been introduced to the competencies and the craftsmanship behind Graphic Facilitation. We want to encourage you to start where you feel the most inspired. Avoid hoisting too many sails at once, especially large ones, in your eagerness to use the methods. Imagine yourself as the inexperienced sailor who has read the theory and now is starting the maiden journey. Graphic Facilitation is a craft that can only be mastered if you practise it. Find fun and easy ways to integrate visuals, step by step into your everyday life. You can go back to Chapters 3 and 6 and read through one or more cases with a focus on how the Five Competencies are used. The template on the next page gives you an opportunity to digest the content from this chapter.


how to practise graphic facilitation





ECT Whether you are new to Graphic Facilitation or already have experience, start with what you already master and give your self little challenges to keep developing you skills. Reflect upon the questions below to get inspiration on how to deepen your practice. You can write straight into the template here or print it out at toolsforschools.dk.


In which of the Five Competencies do you feel confident and why?

Which of the Five Competencies do you need to practise more – what would be a realistic way of doing so?

Where could the use of this/these competencies create value in your work/study?

In which concrete situations would it be obvious for you to begin using Graphic Facilitation – think of situations where you would feel comfo able and safe to sta out?

Visual thinking

Structured listening


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Organising and meaning-making

Powerful questions

WHAT’S YOUR NEXT STEP? If you have read the entire book from the beginning, you will have been introduced to the Six Practices – the foundations for nurturing Meaningful Learning Communities – and you will understand how they can be applied in your daily work using Graphic Facilitation. We have covered theory, methods and practices, and you have had the space to reflect on the content in relation to your own work. Note that you have been presented with a broad overview of Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation. There is a lot to take care of in a busy life and not all of the elements we have described here can be activated at the same time. We hope that you have been inspired to practise more, regardless of whether this is completely new, or you have been working with it for a while. We recommend that you practise in situations where you feel safe and where there is space for you to experiment and fail. For some, that is at home at the kitchen table, for others it is with students who are curious and capable of laughing at first attempts. And for others it might be with a good colleague, drawing together at a small meeting. The most important thing is that you leave the safety of the shore and get started. It can be a huge advantage to find others in your organisation who are also interested in Meaningful Learning Communities or Graphic Facilitation and to share experiences and questions with them to begin with. You can easily start practising without the entire organisation being onboard from the beginning. It is also possible to share experiences in the Facebook or Linkedin group, “Draw to Learn”, where members share material and ask each other questions. The next chapter is a visual library where you can find many examples of icons, templates, presentations and notes. There is space for you to start drawing and to try out the different techniques. We wish you the best of luck with this work! b

how to practise graphic facilitation



Chapter 9



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This library contains 160 icons, 13 templates and eight presentations for your inspiration. You are free to copy all icons, templates and presentations. In fact, copying is a great way to learn and to start using the visual language right away. We have made space for you to try out different drawing techniques, build you own visual library and choose your favourite colour palette. Use the practice sheets as you like, draw directly into the book or download and print them from toolsforschools.dk.



VIP icons The VIP icons are a set of basic icons that are useful for visualising

projects and processes. If you are new to this, the VIP icons are a good place to start practising. Draw them many times so you start to embody them.


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WHO Who is it about? Who is involved? In schools and other organisations we work with humans so it is great to be able to draw people. Find your own personal style or use one of the figures here.

Your personal style

Draw a copy in the empty box below the VIP icon



WHO Who is it about? Who is involved? Differentiate your people by adding details such as accessories and artefacts.

How many different facial expression can you come up with? Find inspiration by using emojis ;)


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WHERE AND WHEN Where are we now and where do we want to go? When does it start and when have we reached our goal? Platforms and signs can illustrate a place in time, a geographical location, a venue or a situation. They help us understand where and when something is taking place.



HOW How is the process unfolding? How do we reach our goal? Arrows and roads help to show how we get from A to B.


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WHAT What do the participants say after the meeting? What do the students think about the project? Speech bubbles show what people think and say.



WHY Why should we work this way? Why do we start this initiative? This framing highlights the key message and helps us understand why the content of the visual is important.


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My V I P I c o n L i b r a r y Choose your favourite versions of the VIP Icons and make your own library. Practise these icons, so you know them by heart.












Why library


Icons The icons in this paragraph are inspired by words and concepts from a school

context. The icons are divided into different themes but many of the icons can also be used in other contexts. The themes are: the student’s world, the teacher’s world, the headteacher’s world, situations, communication, subjects, projects and the Six Practices.


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Each icon can of course be used in many different contexts. Itʻs up to you where you want to integrate it.





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Student plan



Connecting the pieces







Team effort

1 3








Team building









Ri n



Teacher-student conversation



Reporting back






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Eye to eye



Idea generation






The unspoken



















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Powerful questions












Project scope library




Ă˜ S


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Collective intelligence

Inner compass


Setting direction












External communication

Steady course







Internal communication library


My I c o n L i b r a r y Here you can make your own icon library. Write up to 24 words, concepts or terms that you use often. Find or develop icons that fit your work or study context. The template can also be downloaded for printing at toolsforschools.dk.


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My I c o n L i b r a r y



We call black, grey and white neutral colours.

Combine for example a dark and light blue with orange as a contrast colour.

Choosing colour We use colours to help the reader navigate around our visualisation. We recommend you create a couple of colour palettes based on the pens you have available. A basic palette consists of six colours: black, grey, white and a dark, light and contrast colour. You can find inspiration in the combinations above and learn more about choosing colours in the tutorial at toolsforschool.dk.


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My C o l o u r Pa l e t t e s Choose four sets of colours that you like to use in your work or study. This template can also be downloaded from toolsforschools.dk.












Contrast library


Colour coding We try to use colours wisely. They serve the purpose of highlighting important information, connecting details and helping us navigate the big picture. Colour coding means, for example, colouring people from the same group (i.e. students in a class, a teacher team) with the same colour so you can quickly decode when that group of people is involved in an activity. You can also use colour coding when differentiating between title, headlines and bodytext. Learn more about colour coding in the tutorial at toolsforschool.dk.


draw to learn

Notice how the colour coding provides information about connection and differentiation in the examples opposite. Practice using colour coding by colouring in these icons.



Text 9.1 Text size 9.2 Write neatly 9.3 Text styles 9.4 Practice sheet

Text is very important when working with Graphic Facilitation. It is the combin­

ation of text, icons and storytelling that makes your visual outcome powerful. We can work visually with the text too. On the next few pages you can find inspiration for how to spice up the letters you use. You can find a practice template on page 231. This can also be downloaded at toolsforschools.dk.


Make sure to clearly differentiate between the title, the headlines and the body of text. One way to differentiate is by making the headline half the size og the title and the body text half the size of the headline, as shown in the example on the next page.

Write neatly

Write neatly so it is easy to read your text. It can be a good idea to write in capital letters as this is easier for the eyes to read. We recommend you only use bullet points or short sentences to complement the images.


By using different text styles, shapes and shadows we can highlight important content and create dynamic in the picture. Experiment with different expressions depending on the message of the visualisation and the target group to whom you want to communicate. You can practise styles by copying the ones shown here or come up with your own. The template on page 231 can be downloaded at toolsforschools.dk.


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N library



Make shapes like circles, squares and triangles and let them inspire the form of the text.


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Try out drawing different shadows, shapes and styles.




Visual Templates In this paragraph you will find 13 templates to inspire you. Some might fit perfectly with your needs, others can be adapted by changing one or more of the headlines, and some might not work in your context. Remember the templates need to serve you and your work, rather than trying to fit your work into one of the templates. All 13 templates can be downloaded at toolsforschools.dk.

Subject specifics (p. 233)

Social competencies

This template can be used in a team meeting when initiating activities to strengthen the culture within a class. Visible Learning

This template can be used by a student, either alone or in conversation with others. It helps the student create an overview for reflecting on his or her own learning strategies.

Maths – division

Social contract

This template can be used to practise division in a creative way, by bringing it into a real-life context.

This template is especially valuable when initiating groupwork for a project week.

English – preparing for your essay

This template can be used when the students have to prepare for written assignments in English. The template helps students get an overview of the different elements of the product before they start to write out the story together.

Project, meeting and strategy (p. 237) Preparing for parent-teacher meeting

This template helps both students, parents and teachers in preparing for a parent meeting.

Geography – Germany


This template can be used to collect and summarise the information that the students have received, for example, from a lecture, a video or through their own reading.

This template can be used to facilitate reflection and dialogue within the leadership team around the strategy of the school. It is a great idea to invite both teachers and students into this conversation.

Learning, feedback and competencies (p. 234)

Project planning

This template can help both teachers and students in planning and executing a project or assignment.


Focus areas, goals and collabaoration

This template can be used when teachers give students feedback on an assignment.

This template works as a navigation and summary tool for the headteacher during a conversation.

My strengths

Weekly / monthly meeting

This template can be used for an appreciative approach to reflection and goal setting with a student.

This template can be used in teaching teams and leadership teams to take stock, create an overview of shared tasks, divide responsibility and map progression.


draw to learn

MATHS - DIVISION Here comes George. He also want muffins. Draw how many they can each have if they all have the same

How many muffins do you see on the tray?

How many muffins can Hannah, Zarah & Julia have each?



Narrative: What is happening?

Theme: What is the theme or topic for your essay?

Context: Where is the story unfolding?

Time: When is the story taking place?


What characterises the genre of your essay?



GEOGRAPHY - GERMANY • Area: • Population: • Capital: • Climate:

• Which countries boarder onto Germany

• Traditional German food: Draw the German flag

• Traditional German drinks:


My suggestions for next time:

re a l l y we l l

I would like to see more of:


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How I can use them: In class

In breaks I want to get better at:

S In group work

SOCIAL COMPETENCIES Dialogue in the team about social competencies in the classroom

How can we support the students to develop their social skills?

How can we measure their progress?

Why is it important to focus on social competencies? What are the guidelines for interventions?





What do I do when I need to learn something new?



How can I tell that I have reached my goal?

What do I do when I feel stuck?

Name: Grade:

SOCIAL CONTRACT Groupwork in class



Good at:

Good at:

Need help:

Need help:

Principles for collaboration: Te am s lo g an :

Name: Good at: Need help:


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Team logo:



At home we think: This is going well in school:

This is difficult in school:

Current status:

New milestones:

G oal

Agreement between school & student:



STRATEGY Purpose with 20

What projects/ initiatives do we want to explore?

Our vision for 20

Themes & focus areas Which sails are we hoisting?




Subject: Learning goals: Theme:

Presentation: What questions do we want to find answers to?

• Deliverable

What is our end product?


Who is on the team & what are our compentencies?


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• Guidance • Information

How will we do research ?

What do we need help with? How do we want to collaborate?

FOCUS AREAS, GOALS & COLLABORATION Professional development dialogue with teams of teachers


What are you focusing on Focus areas

How is the collaboration in the team?


Status Su cc es se s

C h a lle



Next steps

For the head teacher

For the team

Works well

Works well



WEEKLY/MONTHLY MEETING Update Successes & challenges

Assignments Responsible

Just started

Working on it





Visual Presentations The following paragraph offers ten presentations. All the

content is inspired by the Visual Presentations created by our school collaborators. You can use these examples as inspiration for presenting the content of assignments, projects and strategies. See examples for how teachers and headteachers have used Visual Presentations at toolsforschools.dk.

Presentation of a process (p. 243) Today’s schedule

A presentation of the schedule for the day helps to introduce the process of a lesson. It can be used in all grades. Assess the amount of text your class can understand. Visible learning – what do I do when I get stuck?

Subject specific content (p. 241)

This presentation is designed to help students remember what options they have when they face a learning challenge and feel stuck.

Maths: Multiplication

This presentation was used by a teacher in 3rd grade to help students remember methods for working with multiplication.

Strategy and projects (p. 245) The culture in the school – Little Valley School

Gymnastics: Warm up

This visualisation shows a warm-up programme created by students in 8th grade. The programme is based on the practical and theoretical training they have received in gymnastics.

This presentation was developed from a process focused on creating a healthy learning culture in the school for all staff. The content was gathered at an all-staff meeting and the process of developing the presentation became the foundation for a dialogue around collaboration and learning.

Science: How to build a robot

In nature/technology, a 5th grade teacher used this presentation to support the students in building robots. The presentations were copied and distributed to all groups to make the students more self-sufficient.

Great teamwork

The outcome of a workshop for all staff in 4th–6th grade is gathered in this presentation. The presentation is used as a shared foundation for organising, planning and executing team meetings. IT project

This presentation of an it project explained how the students would be introduced to ipads. The presentation evolved throughout the process with new things being added along the way. The poster provided a “red thread” for the overall project.


draw to learn

MULTIPLICATION - What can help?

• Calculator • Coins 5




5 3 x 5 =

3x5=? • Fingers 15

10 2 5

• Rulers





WARM-UP • Goal:

• Purpose:

To warm up the main muscle groups prior to the basketball match

Prevent injuries and build team spirit

• Program: Get the pulse up




• Material: Music

• Principles:

- Have fun - Give it all youʻve got - Drink water


Make a unique product & market it

• Learning objectives: - Electronics - Innovations - Collaboration - Communication

• Process: Make the robot

• Material: - Motor - Batteries - Glue stick - Brush - Iphone


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- Electrical cords - Decoration

Pimp your robot

Sell your robot

• Principles for collaboration:

- Serious fun - Listen to each other - Take responsibility - Be curious

TODAY’S SCHEDULE 8:30 Morning song 8:45 Group workshop

11:30 Lunch 12:00 Move your body

12:30 Groupwork

14:00 Ending the day




- What to do when I get stuck?

Boss Brain


Buddy Book


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Our formal & informal structures

The best school for the world

• Letʻs use our influence well!

Top down

• We are role models! What we say and do inspires the people we are around!

Bottom up

ce en

we tell

i ntentio

Wh a t in

about the school

• We are equal co-creators of the school community

The parents

• We hold part of the responsibility for the wellbeing of our classmates and others in the school.

• The parents are invisible classmates

form our reality

and each other

• How I talk and what I talk about with my child travels to the classroom and the school


Little Valley School 4th - 6th grade


To have a shared structure for collaboration so we can use the resources in our team EFFICIENTLY


o o l v is i o n

To be the best school for the world

ple s P r i n c i b o ratio n ll o rc a fo

Team roles • Meeting facilitator • Hosting our shared space • Focus on the team wellbeing • Documenting

I see you



• What kind of culture is needed to support our vision? - Compassionate - Ambitious - Inclusive

The stories we tell

Ou r

The students ou


• We strive to build relation and • Factual connection ... • Compassionate • Professional • Constructive

The stories

s the c u ltu re of



Ripples in the water


How we communicate with each other

The staff

y n s ibil it

po ne s re s e ve r yo • It is e s uc c e e d li k e? ss lo ok t h at w s succ e doe Wh at

t h e in n w it h • L is te t a n d s r e und

te n t io n


rs f o r om p u te e s o r c ing me e t ing s n o h p ur • No a l us e d p e rs o n • Te am

ro le s r

o t a te e


ek e r y we

Th Shared toolbox • I.DO.ART

e te

a m m is s

io n

• Meaningful learning experiences • Wellbeing • Great results

meetings with clear purpose

• Visual agendas and results • Check in & out every day • Shared digital platform • Structutred listening & powerful questions

s To o l




TEGY A R T S T I r high in junio


s Pro n s o &c



IT h a n dbo ok

IT & LEARNING for all schools in Copenhagen Et hic


19t A u g .h



S e p.

. De c Oct.


No v.

2 5 0 X I P A D


2019 1 2



..... 246

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4th Ju ne

Materials Pencil and eraser

Post-its Roll of paper


Thin markers


Sheets of paper Thick markers

Masking tape & sticky tack Correction tape or -fluid

Soft pastels

These materials will give you a good foundation for your work, but they are by no means essential. You can get a long way with A4 paper and a couple of different coloured markers.




Final reflections final reflections

Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage we make 248

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everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. – Brené Brown final reflections


Final reflections

In 2010 we founded the work cooperative, Tools for Schools. Since then we have been working with schools and municipalities all over Denmark with a focus on supporting Meaningful Learning Communities using Graphic Facilitation. Some of our work has been focused on teaching Graphic Facilitation, innovation and entrepreneurship. Other work has involved the application of Graphic Facilitation, from hosting meetings and innovation processes to supporting strategic development. Whether working in the teacher and facilitator role, our primary goal has been to support teachers and leaders in developing their capacity to lead and work in complexity, while co-creating meaningful learning experiences at all levels. In 2014 we wrote the book, The Visual Teacher, which we published through Tools for Schools. We are both graduates from the Kaospilots school of leadership and entrepreneurship, and our work is informed and inspired by the practice of The Art of Hosting.


draw to learn

M This book is written based on four values that are central to our work:

Passion As we have been encouraging you to do throughout the book, find that which gives you energy and follow it whenever it shows up. Passion is the driving force that gives magic to our efforts. We have allowed our passion to drive us in this process and it has led to many new discoveries.

Practise what you preach Our teamwork has formed a learning community. We have used the process of writing “Draw to Learn” as an opportunity to gain new knowledge, redefine our approaches and develop new material. We have been inspired by what we have learned in conversation with partners, teachers, leaders and experts. We have been in the “Pit” or the “groan zone” many times, and we have sketched endless drawings trying to clarify our own thoughts.

Generosity It is important for us to steal and share knowledge, ideas and visual tools in the communities that we are a part of. We believe that there is enough for everyone and that we create more value by sharing and working together than if we each hold tightly on to what is ours. So we encourage you to use all the material in the book. You may copy and print everything and there is more material for download on our website toolsforschools.dk.

Courage and curiosity Learning calls for courage and curiosity in multiple forms. It can be challenging to practise and invite participation or even draw a star-man on the blackboard. We hope you will face the challenge and together with your colleagues create amazing learning opportunities for students and for yourselves. It is the courage and curiosity to throw ourselves into something new that is especially important. It has required a lot of courage and curiosity from us to make this book a reality. We know that it will probably require the same from you to engage with many of the things that we’ve highlighted. final reflections


Thank you!


Draw to Learn has come into being through the help of experts, colleagues, friends and family. We especially want to thank Sarah Egbert Eiersholt who has made the majority of our illustrations, James Ede, our chief wordsmith and proofreader, and Johan Rutherhagen, our book designer and photographer. All three of them have helped make the book more appetising than we could ever have done ourselves. We also want to express gratitude to June Kromann who is always ready to help and contribute with stories and visual materials from the classroom. June is a great inspiration and worth getting in touch with, if you want more examples of how to bring Meaningful Learning Communities and Graphic Facilitation to life in your school. A big thanks to Ane Fabricius for editing the Danish version of the book, to LĂŚrke Kersten for translating the book from Danish to English, and to Anja Viberg for proofreading.



draw to learn

Draw to Learn is a direct result of what, to us, is a Meaningful Learning Community. Therefore we also want to say thank you to: All the Kickstarter backers who enabled us to publish the book. In this regard we particlarly want to thank these people for their generosity:

Helle Schütten Johansen Helle Solvang Inviso aps Kaospiloterne Mark Wilmot Miki Gunji Patrick van Loenhout Yurie Makihara

All sparring partners and those who read or listened and provided inspiration or feedback: Amalie Villesen Andrew Blackwell Anja Viberg Astrid Holtz Yates Bjørn Haldorsen Camilla Mærsk Emil Rose Fridda Flensted-Jensen Jeppe Volf Pedersen Josefine Thorup Jensen Katja Rask Kirsten Haase Kristine Juel Sklander Lars Christiansen Linda Greve Louise Bolmgren Marius Nørup Mary-Alice Arthur Mette Frank Mogens Dam Morten Kliim-Due Nina Erslev Ninna Wedendahl Ole Lauridsen Per Frank Jensen Sofie Vagnø Dahl Sofie & Amanda Leweson Simon Høg Sørensen Søren Thorborg Thomas Albrechtsen All the students photographed in this book

final reflections


References Albrechtsen, T. R. S. (2013). Professionelle læringsfællesskaber – teamsamarbejde og undervisningsudvikling. Frederikshavn: Dafolo. Argyris, C. (1999). On Organizational Learning, 2nd edition. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell Publishing. Arthur, M. A. Interview about storytelling for the purpose of this book (not recorded). Bateson, G. (2000). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden. Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly. USA: Gotham Books. Cooperrider, D. & Subriana, M. (2013). Appreciative inquiry: An innovative approach to personal and organizational transformation. Barcelona: Kairos Publishers. Design Council. ‘Design Thinking and the Double Diamond’. Blog post accessed July 2018 at: www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-framework-innovation-designcouncils-evolved-double-diamond Elkjær, B. (2005). Når læring går på arbejde. København: Samfundslitteratur. Elung, T. (2016). Brug hovedet – refleksive læringsstrategier. Frederikshavn: Dafolo. Gärdenfors, P. (2011). ‘How to Motivate Students?’ TEDxNorrköping – Peter Gärdenfors. Accessed August 2017 at: www.youtu.be/blWcbY5qA58 Haslebo, G. (2004). Relationer i organisationer – en verden til forskel. København: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag. Hasson, U. (2016). ‘What Happens In the Brain When We Hear Stories?’ TED 2016. Accessed August 22, 2017 at: www.blog.ted.com/what-happens-in-the-brain-when-we-hear-stories-uri-hasson-at-ted2016 Hattie, J. (2012). Visible Learning – For Teachers. New York: Routledge. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. New York: Routledge Hersted, L., Laustsen, L. and Høier, M. O. (Red.) (2011). Kreativ procesledelse – nye veje til bedre praksis. København: Dansk Psykologisk Forlag. Hildebrandt, S. (2014). ‘Skoleledelse – om at træde i karakter og fylde ledelsesrummet ud’. Folkeskolen, no. 13. Juul, J., Høeg, P., Stubberup, M., Jensen, H., Bertelsen, J., & Hildebrandt, S. (2012). Empati, det der holder verden sammen. København: Rosinante. Kaner, S. (2011). Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision-Making. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Klinge, L. (2019). ‘Vi skal hen imod en skole, hvor børn ikke bliver råbt ad og ydmyget’, Politiken. Accessed November 5th 2019 at: www.politiken.dk/indland/art7470477/Vi-skal-henimoden-skole-hvor-born-ikke-bliver-rabt-ad-og-ydmyget


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Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Hverdagens metaforer. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Lauridsen, O. (2016). Hjernen og Læring. København: Akademisk Forlag. Madsen, A. & Frank, N. (2014). Den Visuelle Lærer (The Visual Teacher). København: Tools for Schools. Maturana H. R., & Poerksen, B. (2004). ‘The View of the Systemicist: A conversation’. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 17(44), 269-279. Meier, J. (2016). ‘Lederens eksistensparadokser’. Article: Erhvervspsykologi, no. 3. Nottingham, J. (2013). Encouraging Learning – How You Can Help Children Learn. New York: Routledge. Nottingham, James. Homepage accessed October 2017 at: www.jamesnottingham.co.uk/learning-pit Pless, M., Katznelson, N., Hjort-Madsen, P., & Nielsen, A. W. (2015). Unges motivation i udskolingen – et bidrag til teori og praksis om unges lyst til læring i og uden for skolen. Aalborg: Aalborg Universitetsforlag. Poulsen, B. K., Thomsen, R., Buhl, R., & Hagmeyer, I. A. (2016). Udsyn i udskolingen. København: KL og Danmarks Lærerforening. Scharmer, C. O. (2009). Theory U – Leading From the Future as It Emerges. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc. Senge, P. M. (1990). The 5th Discipline – The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. New York: Currency Snowden, D. The Cynefin Framework. Video accessed October 2017 at: www.youtu.be/N7oz366X0-8 Tanggaard, L. (Red.) (2009). Kreativitetsfremmende læringsmiljøer i skolen. Frederikshavn: Dafolo. Ulrich, J. (2016). Samskabelse – en typologi. CLOU Skriftserie, 1-15. Article accessed June 2018 at: www.ucviden.dk/en/publications/samskabelse-en-typologi van der Meer, A., & van der Welt, F. R. (2017). Only Three Fingers Write But the Whole Brain Works: A High-Density EEG Study Showing Advantages of Drawing Over Typing for Learning. Frontiers in Psychology, May 9 2017. Article accessed July 2018 at: www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00706/full Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vygotsky, L. (1997). Educational Psychology. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Wheatly, M. Walk Out Walk On. Short video accessed October 2017 on: www.walkoutwalkon.net/south-africa/ubuntu-i-am-because-you-are

final reflections


“This book empowers you to navigate the challenging and everchanging nature of organisations using proven visual methods.” – Vasco Nogueira, Graphic Facilitator, Portugal

“You may have heard the adage, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’ I picked up this book with the hope of discovering more about how Graphic Facilitation is used in other classrooms. What I found is an elegant multitool for the creation of valuable learning experiences in my own classroom. The authors have used their Graphic Facilitation experience and methods to define and reinforce the importance of illustration, as not just a teaching tool but as an essential part of the creative process. Far from a one-time read, this is a text that will be dog-eared and weather-beaten in the years of teaching to come.” – T. Currie, Innovations and Design Teacher, Canada

“This book provides the comprehensive yet simple means to explain and develop higher order thinking strategies. It does so visually and in a sequence that makes sense to all kinds of learners and intelligences.” – Lisa Brown, MS Ed., Nauset Diversity Instruction, USA

“I love how this book insists that teaching and learning is a process of co-creation. Using the word ‘teaching’ we often take for granted that people know what we are talking about. But what does it really mean to teach? This book made me wonder and it helped me to dive into a deeper understanding of the whole concept of teaching and learning.” – Mette Karmark Wenderby, MS learning processes, specialised in leadership and organisational psychology, Denmark

“ ‘Draw to Learn’ is an inspiring, ambitious and courageous book. I love the way that the authors offer the concept ‘Meaningful Learning Communities’ which describes the very essence of what it means to be in learning. The book is ambitious because it embraces learning at all levels within an organisation, from students to employees and leaders. The last part of the book is all about getting practical and is a great gift to those of us who buy into the assertion that we can draw our way to meaningful learning. From here it is just about getting started – ‘Practice makes perfect!’ ” - Camilla Hoffmann, Head Teacher, Gladsaxe School, Denmark

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