Appendix B: Debriefing the Activity

One of the most important skills that a facilitator can offer the group is the ability to help the group learn from and through the activity, and this is done through a “debriefing” process. The goal of debriefing is to empower the group. Empowerment involves gradually turning over the responsibility for direction and support to the group. Empowering also means helping teams develop their skills and knowledge while supporting them to use their talents.

You will never have an empowered, self-directed group unless you are willing to share control. Empowerment is all about letting go so that others can get going. Letting go may cause you to face the fear of losing control, which is a prominent fear for many traditional classroom educators.

Debriefing Tips:

Debriefing is an art, not a science, and it is often the difference between a good experiential learning activity and a great one.

  1. Encourage the group to review both the task, as well as the process (most groups tend to focus on the task).
  2. Clarify and focus the comments of the group, and provide helpful information.
  3. Assist the group in discovering what they have experienced.  Resist the temptation to tell them what they have experienced and learned.
  4. Allow quiet time between your question and their response.
  5. Your ability to become an effective experiential learning activity facilitator will rest on your ability to ask great questions.

Debriefing Questions: Master List

Base questions for debriefing:

  • What did you just do together?
  • How did you feel while you did the activity?
  • What was one of the challenges of doing this activity?
  • What did the group have to do or believe to be successful?
  • What was one positive thing that happened during the challenge?
  • How can you apply what you just learned to other challenges you face?
  • How did this activity mimic the flow of ideas in your school or group?
  • How can you apply what you learned in this activity to your life and work?
  • How did you feel when you first saw the activity?

If the group was unable to complete the task in the given time:

  • Since you were not able to solve the problem, does it mean your group is a failure?  (Push the group to respond with more than a “yes” or “no” and to instead point out and discuss what they learned.)
  • What do you think you would have needed to succeed?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • When do you feel like you are going with the flow or working well with others?
  • When do you not feel like you are really going with the flow and working well with others?
  • What changes would you make in how you communicated?

Additional questions: Choose which ones are the most appropriate:

  • How do you feel now?
  • What advice would you give to another group working on this activity?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What did a fellow team member do that was really helpful?
  • What did you do that was helpful to the process?
  • Did you try different ideas? If so, why did you change your approach?
  • How did you figure out the solution?
  • What did you like about how you cared for each other during this activity?
  • What was one positive thing that happened during the challenge?
  • What was one good idea that someone on your team suggested?
  • What did you think when you first heard the instructions?
  • Did the group have a clear action plan? 
  • We can go through life trying to avoid the obstacles but it’s easier when we have help.  Where do you get help in real life?  Are you effective at asking for help?  Are you good at accepting help?  How do you know?  Are you good at giving help?  How do you know?
  • Who received help from others during the activity? Who gave help? Some students are reluctant to either give or receive help. This question can start a great conversation around the topic of helping others. It can also lead into a conversation about trust. Who did you trust to give you information and advice during this activity? Did anyone receive advice that led him or her to make an incorrect move? How do you know who to trust in the real world? What criteria do you have to trust someone?
  • Who made a mistake during this activity? Everyone will make a mistake at some point during an activity. When everyone acknowledges that they all made mistakes, point out that they were still able to solve the challenge (if in fact they were able to). Then ask the group to tell whether mistakes are “good” or “bad.” Generally, groups will say that mistakes are good when you pay attention to them and don’t repeat them and they are bad when the same mistake is repeated over and over again.
  • What surprised you about this activity?
  • How did it feel working with partners that you did not choose?
  • How is one benefit of working with partners that you do not choose?
  • How do you adjust to work together?
  • How do you work to keep improving your work with others?