A spectrum line is a tool that can be used in workshops to give a quick physical representation of where participants stand on a topic. It can help participants get clear on their own thinking, see where the similarities and differences are with other people’s thinking, and reconsider their viewpoint.
The facilitator introduces a topic and demonstrates which parts of the room correspond to different points of the spectrum - for example, one end of a symbolic line represents ‘strongly agree’, and the other end represents ‘strongly disagree’. They then ask participants to consider where they stand, and then physically move to the point in the room that best represents their viewpoint. This is followed by a discussion, during which participants may choose to move again if their mind has been swayed by what they have heard.
Spectrum lines can be used to get a sense of where people in the group stand on a topic and to understand the diversity of viewpoints. This can help participants to better understand different perspectives, as well as helping them to identify and connect with other like-minded individuals. They can also help people to get a clearer understanding of their own point of view on the topic, and the reasons for their stance, and provide people with a simple and effective tool to reconsider their opinions and change them if appropriate.
They can also be useful for considering complex and nuanced issues, and for creating discussion around ethics or philosophical debate. This can be achieved by using leading statements with an ‘agree - disagree’ spectrum, for example ‘violence is never justified’, or ‘the only thing you can change is your own behaviour’.
Spectrum lines can also be used within collaborative decision making processes where there is a choice between two alternatives, to help the entire group get a felt sense of the majority preference as well as any strong feelings on either side of the issue.