Listing – a whiteboarding activity

Making a list

photo: Get Better Headquarters

What is listing?

Listing is a small group activity which involves students using a whiteboard to create a list in response to a challenge. Its power, pedagogically, is to engage and focus a small group around a particular challenge. 

Why is making a list a useful learning activity?

We are all familiar with lists. Individually, we use them every day for prioritising, organising, clearing out clutter, being more productive, becoming more motivated, sharing ideas simply with others, planning, brainstorming, making sense of chaos. They are ideal, therefore, for use in class to organise thinking in small group activities.

Listing provides an entry route to analysing an academic problem. Constructing and committing to a list feels realistic to most students and so, if the challenge is pitched well, it can quickly engage students with each other in an active learning mode as well as engaging the students with each other in the problem itself.

On top of the co-operative nature of this team-based approach, a fun sense of competition can be introduced amongst teams.

How is it used?

Listing can support analysis, for example,  of materials, phenomena, characteristics, processes and stages, success factors, reasons and results, scores, etc.

Arguing over the legitimacy of entries in a list can be the precursor to introducing conceptual knowledge and frameworks. It can also lead to sorting activities.

Following small group activities, students can easily share, compare and update their list as a class using whiteboards.

Prizes or accolades can be awarded for the longest list, the most useful list, the most wide-ranging list, or the list most resembling that being held by the academic.

Example activities

  • Factual knowledge – list the names of all of Henry VIII’s six wives
  • Procedural knowledge – list the steps involved in boiling an egg
  • Conceptual knowledge – list the principal factors that need to be considered in designing a successful birthday party using party planning theory (Smith & Jones, 2010)!

See also: