PANning for Facts

This presentation authored by Tom Hicks, Coe College, based on the concept developed by Elsie Y. Cross Associates, Inc. 1994 Delyte Frost, et al
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This presentation provides and overview of the skill of PANning and allows students to develop this skill through a walking activity. PAN stands for Pay Attention Now and the goal is to observe what is happening around you without any judgment. This allows participants to more clearly see their surroundings and how they may relate to issues of social justice and equality without having any prejudices from which to work. The participants take notes on what they see in the room, then learn about PANning, and finish with a walk around the building/classroom to test out their new skill. A discussion follows based on what they PANned.

Learning Goals

Increase your awareness of what is happening inside of you and around you

feel in control of your ability to determine between fact and fiction

be a more responsible friend, student, and citizen

Context for Use

This activity can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and can be revisited throughout the term to continue to develop stronger PANning skills. It's ideal for a class of under 30 students because that allows everyone to be involved in the discussion without having to break up into groups. It's applicable to almost any field or discipline. It's basis is in sociology but also has roots in the scientific method. Immediate application possibilities come to mind in education (observing classrooms or walking around schools), religion (observing spiritual practices), music, business, and healthcare. It can also be adapted for different contexts or specific topics by using other media such as movies, videos, or music instead of the walk. It's probably most beneficial if it occurs at the beginning of the course so that the participants can build upon their skill and use it to see patterns over the course of the term.

Description and Teaching Materials

PowerPoint presentation - objectives and guides activity, developed by Tom Hicks
PANning overview from the Social Justice Training Institute manual adapted from a concept developed by Elsie Y. Cross Associates, Inc. 1994 Delyte Frost, et al PowerPoint Presentation for PANning (PowerPoint 969kB Mar1 11)
PANning handout (Acrobat (PDF) 73kB Mar1 11)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The facilitator should spend some time PANning with a few colleagues at first so they become comfortable with helping students sort through what they saw. Many students have trouble taking their prejudices away from what they see but your experience working through that yourself will help them get to the specific items they saw.


The discussion at the end provides the facilitator with a good assessment of what the students learned and saw. If needed, you could collect the items the students PANned if you had them write them down.

References and Resources