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Thinking and mind tools

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3-2-1 Thinking

3-2-1 Summariser [Source:]

The 3-2-1 Thinking process is a strategy which can be used with students to help them to focus their thinking. It is a flexible process, with the only requirements being the numbers - students need to produce 3 of one element, 2 of another and 1 of a third.

For example, if this process is used to summarise learning at the end of a session, the numbers can refer to how many of each kind of summary statement or response you require students to provide.

You might ask students to record 3 facts they have learned, 2 questions they have or wonder about, and one professional connection they can make to the information. 

The Three-Two-One System is best used as a summariser to encourage students to think about their learning:

  • As a check for understanding of content during the learning session
  • During class discussions as a way for students to record their thoughts
  • As a closing activity so that students can review what they have learned

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Putting it into practice: Application in Health Sciences

The Three-Two-One Approach is effective when used to get students to summarise their learning and think more deeply about various interventions (for example, to come up with three patient considerations for an intervention, two provider considerations, and one technical or administrative consideration.)

Students can also use this process to compare and contrast ideas or processes, by coming up with three similarities, two differences and one question.

The process can be used to help students to focus on readings (three important ideas from the text, two supporting details for each of the ideas and one question about each idea).

Interesting resources

3-2-1 A reflection and summarising strategy