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Understanding Perspectives on a Continuum

Submitted by Janice McMillan

This exercise makes visible a range of views on an issue as well as how hard it is to take on the view of someone else. It helps participants become aware of how strongly held views can lead them to be dismissive of the views of others.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 1 votes, rating(s)
Hanging leaves in a spectrum of color from green to red

Learning Goals

  • Identify views or perspectives as a continuum and not as a binary.

  • Develop a deeper appreciation for how hard it is to actually take on the view of someone else.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

If doing this in person, make it easier for participants to move around and visualize by taping paper signs to indicate a letter for each position and lanes on the floor for each place in the continuum (refer to this Continuum Map).

On one end of the room/space, draw a large “A” on a piece of paper and tape it onto the floor to represent position A and, on the other end, draw a large “B” on a piece of paper and tape it onto the floor to represent position B.

Take 6 sheets of paper, and write “Strongly Agree with A”, “Agree with A”, “Somewhat Agree with A”, “Strongly Agree with B”, “Agree with B”, “Somewhat Agree with B” on each sheet respectively.

Tape these sheets of paper down in between the position A and position B signs, so in the end, the sheets mark lanes in the following order:

Strongly Agree with A, Agree with A, Somewhat Agree with A, Somewhat Agree with B, Agree with B, Strongly Agree with B.

Use long pieces of masking tape to create a lane for each position.

If doing this online, sign into a Google account and make a copy of this Jamboard Continuum Map. Make sure all participants can sign in to a Google account and have editing access to the Jamboard Continuum Map. When you start the activity, you can have participants create or edit a sticky note and type their name on it. Participants can then move their sticky note to each column to indicate their position on the issue.

Step One: Get Ready to Start (5 min)

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

If doing this in person, start with all participants in position somewhere on the Continuum Map drawn on the floor, ready to move.

If doing this online, invite participants to sign into a Google account and share the Jamboard Continuum Map with them. Have them type their name on a sticky note.

Step Two: Choose Positions - Lightning Round (5 min)

As the facilitator, read statements that indicate two very different positions on one topic, for example:

  • What would you rather eat for lunch? A) a burger or B) a veggie wrap

  • Development is about: A) the alleviation of poverty, or B) increasing people’s capabilities

  • Freedom means: A) having choices, or B) being left alone to do as you like

As each statement is read, ask participants to take a moment to think about where they want to stand and then indicate their position on the continuum by physically moving or, if doing this online, moving the sticky note with their name on it to the correct lane that matches their position. They can choose any position between the two extremes.

Try to encourage participants not to pick a position directly in the middle line, i.e. have no view or claim they are neutral on a topic.

Participants will not be asked to justify their positions, yet. Instead, ask them to remember their thoughts about the statements for the next step of the activity.

Step Three: Choose and Discuss Positions (10 min)

The next set of statements should be tailored to the area of concern for the group. For example, take the topic of “development.”

Read a more complex statement, such as:

  • If you were the head of the United Nations, would you A) prioritize projects focused on the provision of medicines, OR B) prioritize the education of young girls and boys?

Invite participants to think about their opinion and choose a position on the continuum. Invite participants to discuss why they are standing at a particular spot. Even though they are sharing a location, they might be there for very different reasons.

Step Four: Share and Reevaluate Positions (10 min)

Select representatives from each spot to share their thoughts. Engage in a discussion, switching back and forth from one end of the continuum to the other, as opinions and responses are shared.

If participants feel swayed by an argument on the opposite side from where they are standing, they can switch positions. For those who switch, invite them to offer a brief explanation of what persuaded them to move on the continuum.

Step Five: Practice Perspective Taking (10 min)

Repeat the activity with another statement, for example:

  • If you were a starving and politically oppressed citizen, would you rather be given A) food daily or B) the right to vote?

Ask participants to think about their opinion and choose a position on the continuum.

This time as participants discuss with their new group, ask them to develop an argument for the opposing view. Ask them:

  • What are people on the other end of the spectrum thinking?

  • What argument would they put forth to explain why they are on this end of the spectrum?

Participants will have to think from the other side’s perspective and put forth the strongest argument for the opposing view.

Step Six: Discuss with the Full Group (10 min)

Take turns sharing between groups. Make sure the full group takes the discussion far enough to come to a conclusion about what they believe as a group and/or individually. Clarity-seeking questions and examples can aid in this.

Step Seven: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)

  • Which place on the continuum was easiest for you to occupy and why? Extreme ends or middle spaces?

  • When imagining what other groups thought or believed, which spaces were easiest/hardest to imagine?





Culturally Responsive Collaboration

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average rating is 4 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:42:10 PM

This activity is great when a group is comfortable sharing thoughts--but it is modified to be more introspective at first. There are two versions of this, one to recognize "normalized" feelings, the other is labeled "extreme" as the group was practicing navigating high emotion. This first one covers parents, cats, dogs: This one is to recognize more difficult to talk about feelings of fear, disgust, etc.:

average rating is 5 out of 5

Sovi Herring

May 30, 2024 at 6:28:11 PM

This activity was modified for a Business & Professional Communication class. It is best when the groups have gone through the guidelines activity to help facilitate how to communicate and even the 3.4 ambiguity. This is a difficult activity if the class is uncomfortable speaking (and in my case they were very adverse to discussing these in any group). Here is how I set it up (along with a print out of the words). It is modified to fit the business world, but worked well as a concept.

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May 28, 2024 at 1:33:05 AM

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May 28, 2024 at 1:31:01 AM

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February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

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February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

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February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

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January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

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December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

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