Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Experiential Learning: Using Comic Strips as 'Reflective Tools' in Adult Learning

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Experiential Learning: Using Comic Strips as 'Reflective Tools' in Adult Learning

Article excerpt


This paper critically examines the theory and practice of creatively using newspapers and comics as techniques for personal and group reflection in outdoor education and corporate management development. Comics and newspapers embrace imagery, humour, and storytelling and they can be used to express and convey meaning of selected events through images and scripts. Whilst these media can lend themselves to the process of mirroring back learners' perceptions of dialogue, events and actions, we discovered a number of pitfalls in their application to learning events. This paper describes a process of experiential learning in practice where students and facilitators used a series of experiments to create and test out such reflection tools, either manually or through computer aided techniques. The paper explores the practicalities of these techniques and concludes by making recommendations for good practice in their design and innovative use.


This paper is based on experiments involving experiential learning in practice by academics, training practitioners and mature students with an outdoor education background. These experiments involved using cartoons as a reflective tool on recent masters-level residential programs. We have also introduced these techniques on commercial outdoor management development courses. What follows is an examination of our new understanding of the theory and practice of using cartoons as a reflective tool for experiential educators. We share our findings and thoughts on what can happen when things do and don't go as planned, and offer some advice and suggestions for good practice for teachers and outdoor/experiential educators. Our willingness to experiment and take risks has deepened our awareness and understanding of these techniques, and enhanced our knowledge and skills.

Background--Designing Creative Reflection

Benson in his excellent book on creative groupwork refers to the I Ching or Book of Changes:

  The clever group worker should use allegories, figures, wondrous
  speech or other hidden, round about ways, to convey meaning and
  resolve difficult situations (Benson, 1987, p 203).

There are many creative and exciting ways to convey meaning. Storytelling has been used for thousands of years and also offers great potential as an aid to experiential learning. Stories, anecdotes, metaphors, art and poetry can all be used as reflective tools to enhance understanding. In drama, there are many approaches that can be utilised. Image theatre, for example, is a series of exercises and games designed to uncover the essential truths about societies and cultures. Dramaturgy has more recently gain the centre stage in development training in various locations around the world (Martin & Leberman, 2000).

What has been happening over the last few years is the crossing over of design and delivery techniques from one discipline into other disciplines (in particular, development trainers continue to experiment with techniques borrowed from theatre, art and therapy). This has generated a lot of exciting new methods that help us to learn about, explain and reflect upon our behaviour and thoughts. This paper focusses on the use of cartoon images as a reflective tool, which embraces art, humour and storytelling. We recognise that the use of cartoons is a visual orientation technique, and that programme designers consider incorporating a mix of other sensory orientations (tactile, auditory and olfactory) to stimulate learners in a more holistic manner.

Shell Executives

Back in the early eighties Colin used an artist to assist in his training program for Shell executives in their prestigious Lensbury Club on the Thames. The delegates were people who were close to retirement, and to help them to move into semi-retirement they were asked to work with a Shell initiative, designed to help environmental projects. …

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