Students reflect on how and what they have learned till now. Through cooperative learning and sharing they reach a shared approach of the implications of Learning to Learn.


  • to creatively reflect on our most meaningful experiences in learning
  • to understand that learning does not only happen in school, but also in non-formal and informal education and experience
  • to become aware of what and how we have learned
  • to share and build our knowledge and skills in a cooperative way with others

Material needed

  • posters or big pieces of paper in different colours (one for each student)
  • creative material, pens, pencils, paints, paint brushes, pastel colours etc.


The students are provided with flipcharts and/or posters and with any creative material which is available.

Step by step description

1. The students first individually draw a river which, starting from the past and arriving to the present, describes their most important learning experiences – through symbols, drawing, writing etc. Ask them to look back at their lives and think about times or events when they really felt they learned something. (ca. 45 min.)

Some useful questions for reflection:

  • Why were these moments so important?
  • What have you learned? How? (example: I learned that I could stand up again after falling from the bike.)
  • What has limited your learning? What, on the other hand, helped you to reach your potential?

2. After 45 minutes students are asked to form small groups and to share as much or as little as they want from their reflections coming from the rivers. Ask them to find out: What do we have in common? What is different? Why?

One person from each group writes down similarities, differences and main issues. (45 min.)

3. In plenary, ask each representative from the groups to present the main points they wish to share and list them on a flipchart. (30 min.)

4. Put the drawings on the wall so that students can look at each other´s rivers and continue their talks.

Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing

  • How did you like to use the metaphor “river” for your learning?
  • What was challenging in discovering your most important learning moments?
  • Was there anything surprising concerning your personal reflection?
  • What were similarities and what were differences when you compared your river with the rivers of others?

Suggestions for adaptations and variations

A poem which could be read before or after the activity as a metaphor for learning through experience:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Reference / original source of the method

This activity was facilitated by Eva Boev during her workshop „CreACTIVE Learning“ at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2010 in Senec, Slovak Republic. It is based on the activity “The River of Learning”: in: Kloosterman, Paul; Taylor Mark E.: Handbook for facilitators, 2012, pp. 40-41

Further tips and resources

Otten, Hendrik; Ohana, Yael: Study „The eight key competencies for lifelong learning: An appropriate framework within which to develop the competence of trainers on the field of European youth work or just plain politics?“, 2009

Barwood, Tom: Learning to Learn Pocketbook, Teachers’ Pocketbooks, 2005; the pocketbook can be bought here:

Johnson, David R. and Frank P. Johnson: Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills, 10th edition, Pearson Education, 2008