Future Ideal Retrospective: Collaboratively generate a practical vision for future developments

Collaboratively contribute to each participant generating a practical vision for future developments based on evaluations or on statements, questions, and/or reservations concerning a certain challenge, such as learning from what has happened before (e.g., in a course, at a conference, etc.). This approach is based on Strategic Personal Planning as developed by the Institute for Cultural Affairs in Canada.

1. Either a. assemble written evaluations from, say, a conference, or b. ask a defined group (e.g., students in a course) to compose five statements, questions, and/or reservations that are important to them concerning a defined challenge (e.g., supporting each other to complete the course project by the end of the semester).
Session Proper (which may only include a subset of those who composed the evaluations or statements, Qs, etc.)
2. Circulate the sheets. Digest them one by one and make notes on what you read with a view to representing not only your own views but also those of others (who may or may not be present at the session).
3. Future ideal retrospective:

  • Imagine yourself some time in the FUTURE looking back with a sense of accomplishment on how far the group (e.g., conference organizing group, the students in the course) have come in response to the challenge (e.g., the issues raised the evaluation) = the IDEAL. Construe accomplishment broadly so it can include your own reflection and growth. RETROSPECTIVE: What happened to make this so?–What different kinds of things do you envisage having gone into or contributed to the positive developments?
  • These things can span the mundane and inspiring; tangible and intangible; process, as well as product; relationships as well as individual skills. Record these things on Post-its (3-5 WORDS IN BLOCK LETTERS)
    3a. Discussion in pairs of each other’s post-its while waiting for others to finish.
    4. Photocopy assembled post-its (so each participant has a copy).
    5. Grouping, naming, and synthesis done separately by each participant:
    Once you have about 30 post-its

  • Move the post-its around into groups of items that have something in common in the way they address the challenge.
  • Describe the groups using a phrase that has a verb in it or, at least, indicates some action. For example, instead of “Holistic Artistic Survival Project,” an active name would be “Moving holistically from surviving to thriving as artists.”
  • Group the groups in pairs or threes and give these larger groups descriptive active names.
  • Group these groups and name them, until you arrive at a descriptive active name for the practical vision post-its as a whole.
  • After the session
    6. Complete stage 5 and distribute them to others (example)


  • Collaboratively contribute to each of us generating a practical vision of future steps
  • Use post-it brainstorming (incl. clustering & naming) to rapidly assess a complex situation in a way that creates an experience of creativity
  • Experience post-it clustering as a fruitful way to clarify your future and thus go on to complete the activity after the session is over.
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    About Peter J. Taylor
    Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

    2 Responses to Future Ideal Retrospective: Collaboratively generate a practical vision for future developments

    1. Keatha says:

      Thanks for sharing the information – it is helpful to me in that although a lot has been written about the value of group reflective practice, I haven’t found much practical information showing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to move from individual reflective practice to group reflective practice

    2. Pingback: Future Ideal Retrospective, a new variant « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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