Visual paragraphing: Using space to organise ideas

Facilitation skills for meetings where a team learns is a useful set of skills for coordinators and team leaders. Effective meetings considers how adults learn in their deliberate planning. They can also involve intentionally creating the architecture of a learning space, such as how people will be seated, how many to a group, where the facilitator will present, whether a recorder or scribe is needed, how much time to allocate to each item in the meeting structure, and the process of thinking that successfully achieves the meeting purpose. Planning effective meetings might also include choreography, the use of movement and space to convey part of the message.

A facilitator move that works in effective meeting choreography is the visual paragraph. Visual paragraphing is a strategy from The Adaptive School by Garmston and Wellman. The strategy helps organise ideas using space and movement, and the facilitator uses the space and movement to support the way the team thinks together.

Here is a video I created that illustrates this strategy.

The benefits of using space and movement to organise ideas in a team meeting incorporates the learning technique called loci method of memory retrieval. The loci method is a mnemonic device wherein people associates space and location with a piece of information or a thought. The loci method uses visualisation of imagery to anchor an idea. 

Using the space to create ‘paragraphs’ or units of thought helps a group of people to create the association of space to ideas. This helps to place ideas in locations, such as in specific spaces in a room. For example, when there is a sequence, the facilitator can organise the ideas in sequential order in adjacent spaces in the room, effectively helping the group to hold those ideas within the spatial organisation of the space where they are learning together.

The visual paragraph is an effective strategy for facilitators to strengthen a meeting’s effectiveness in using context – space and movement – to embed learning in a team’s collaborative work.


I am planning resources for team leaders and coordinators, and the first module “Focusing Your Team” will be available at the end of June. If you are interested in attending this module, please save your space in the course at the sign up form below.

Author: alavina

Cognitive CoachSM and professional development leader at large. Writer and editor at http://learnertoolbox.com.

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