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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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:
- How did you feel?
- What did you do?
- How did you react?
- What association do you make with this?
- What general observations do you make?
- What are the main important learning points?
- What can you take from this?
- What you will apply in your realities?
- What do you want to do differently next time?