The use of graduated scenarios to facilitate the learning of complex and difficult-to- describe concepts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1474-273X
  • E-ISSN: 2040-0896


There are many complex concepts in higher education learning that are difficult to convey to learners in words. Some examples are reflective learning; critical thinking; clinical reasoning; processes of evaluation (e.g. in art and design subjects) and professional practice (e.g. teaching itself). These are important concepts that evade straightforward uses of language that might explain how to do them and how then to do them better or at a deeper level and so on.

This article explores a method that has been developed to facilitate the learning of such concepts the graduated scenario technique. The article describes the initial development of the method with respect to the concept of reflective learning. Graduated scenarios are based on two practices first, the use of examples and demonstrations that show learners in this case how to write reflectively. Second, they demonstrate the characteristics of deep reflection as opposed to superficial and descriptive reflection. This demonstration is made explicit at the end of the exercise, in a framework for, in this case, reflective learning. The assumption is made that better quality learning emanates from deeper reflection (e.g. Hatton and Smith 1995).

The article goes on to discuss the application of the graduated scenario technique to critical thinking. It then moves to a more generic approach, considering why such a technique appears to be helpful and it provides examples of other areas of learning in which it could be used.


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