What do we mean by debriefing?

Debriefing  is  that  magical  phase  that  ensures  the  learning  outcomes  of  an  activity  are  actually transferred to the participants. During the debriefing participants make connections,  get insights and develop a clear understanding of their learning process. Without debriefing  the  game  experience,  this  would  happen  much  less  or  not  at  all.  The  debriefing  phase  is  therefore an important part  – if not the most important  – of Joolbox.

The debriefing  modules that we use are inspired by the theoretical approach of Kolb’s  experiential  learning  cycle  (David  Kolb,  1984).  In  Kolb’s  theory,  effective  learning can  be  achieved when the leaner progresses through the cycle.

Debriefing is basically a discussion, which takes place after a given activity, be it a role play, simulation,  watching  a  video,  doing  a  group  task,  etc.  in  order  to  process  what  actually happened  and  to  help  participants  extract  and  acknowledge  their  learning. This  discussion  usually follows the experiential learning cycle (see above), one of the learning theories which  are  the  basis  of  non – formal  education.

The  debriefing  is  indeed  part  of  what  makes  the  difference  between  a  successful  session  and  a  failed  one.  We  define  the  success  of  a  session  in  relation  to  the  achievement  of  its  learning objectives.  If the participants  have  fun  or  enjoy  themselves,  it  is  not  an  indicator  of  learning  success.  Of  course,   fun   and   enjoyment   will   benefit   their   motivation   to   play   and   influence   their  involvement  or  mood,  and  therefore  to  some  extent  their  learning  achievements,  but  it  will  ever  be  sufficient  and very  often,  not  even  needed. The  debriefing  process  is,  in the  end,  what makes an experience a successful one.

Debriefing  can  make  even  the  simplest  activity  a  very  powerful  one  and,  when  it  is  poorly

conducted  – or  completely  absent  – even  the  most  interesting  or  cool  activity  will  have  no  impact.  Mastering  debriefing  is  THE key  competence  that  any  facilitator has  to  have  – it  is  not  an  optional  one  and  it  is  not  an  easy  one  to  master.  That  is  probably  why,  even  after years of experience, many facilitators still struggle with it.

Based on our work with beginner facilitators, we have noticed how easily debriefing is either  forgotten, done in insufficient time or too poorly to serve its purpose. Without exception, this  is  where  all  facilitators  fail  the  most  in  their  work.  We  therefore  advise  you  to  take  the  debriefing  part  very  seriously  if  your  aim is  to  leave  an  impact  on  your  target  group  when

applying this game.

Qualitative criteria for a good debriefing

  1. It takes time! There is no shortcut to reach its purpose, and processing theexperience takes time. The total time depends on the size of the group and the experience itself; however the size of the group is not always a reliable reference point. Often, in smaller groups (around 10 people), participants feel more comfortable and actually share and talk more. It is better you allocate more time to it than less!
  2. Follow the phases in the given order. A productive flow of discussion should follow these steps, which will maximize the learning outcomes.
    This structure in fact helps the facilitator, because it makes it easier for them and the group to follow the way the discussion is building up and crystalizing into learning points.
    • Reflection: discussion of their feelings, reactions, actions and thoughts during the experience itself;
    • Generalization: discussion of their associations with real life, general observations, general learning points. This discussion is based on the outcome of the reflection discussion;
    • Transfer: discussion of how they can take the learning points further, which ones are more suitable to them and how they can transfer them into their lives.
  3. Ask adequate, good and relevant questions. The questions should be strongly linked with the previous two aspects. They have to lead the group towards deep insights (the so called AHA! moment). Some general questions suggested for each phase:
    • Reflection:
      • How did you feel?
      • What did you do?
      • How did you react?
    • Generalisation:
      • What association do you make with this?
      • What general observations do you make?
      • What are the main important learning points?
    • Transfer:
      • What can you take from this?
      • What you will apply in your realities?
      • What do you want to do differently next time?