The Art of Reflection, Facilitator Tips and Style Notes

Facilitator Tips and Style Notes
Facilitator Tips and Style Notes
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an excerpt from the book, A Teachable Moment, by Michelle Cummings, Jennifer Stanchfield and Jim Cain.

Here are a few ideas to assist you in your debriefing and processing skills.

• Allowing group members to pass during processing discussions empowers participants to have control over their learning and practice reflective feedback at their own pace. Participants can be experiencing valuable reflection even if they don’t share it to the group. When participants are given the power to pass, they learn to trust the facilitator and group and often end up offering a great deal to the group at their own pace.

• Creating a safe and positive learning environment is key. It is risky for people to share their ideas, reactions, and opinions in any environment where they feel exposed or unsafe. Helping the group create behavioral norms regarding comments and judgments during group activities and discussions increases the amount of sharing and interaction and enhances the depth of reflection.

• Sequence processing activities by beginning with simple conversational prompts such as one word whips- leading into more in depth discussions. Reflection is an art that needs to be practiced both by the learner and facilitator.

• Allow for some superficial answers/comments during reflection activities. Remember that this is a practice. When people start to reflect they might start with very surface level comments and observations-Persevere! Groups will increase their level of sharing and reflection as they develop through continued participation.

• Silences are okay, even necessary. Allow time for group members to think and formulate their ideas.

• Be prepared for the group to take reflection somewhere different than you had in mind- you might learn something new!

• Structured reflection doesn’t have to happen with every activity. It can be a very effective practice to reflect at different times in a program depending on the group and situation. Look for teachable moments!

• Mix up your methods. Variety is not only the spice of life, but according to new scientific brain research, novelty and the use of different learning tools and methods facilitates learning.

• Processing can happen at any time- not just after an activity is over. Sometimes a group will experience a pivotal teachable moment in the middle of a problem solving initiative. Brain based learning has shown that immediate feedback and reflection can be valuable.

• Treat debriefing activities as a fun and engaging event- not just something you do after the fun engaging activity is over! Treat reflective activities as an initiative in itself not just something that is done after the event.

• Take time to reflect yourself. Reflecting on your own practice as a facilitator enhances your learning about what works and what doesn’t in facilitation and helps us see the long term benefits of our programs.

• Use your creativity; use activities you already know as reflective tools. Often openers and icebreaking activities could also be used to process an experience.

• Empower participants; and do not force your own agenda on them. Go with the flow- be flexible. Let them take responsibility for their learning and their interpretation of an experience.

• The facilitator doesn’t have to hear it for it to be quality reflection. Try processing activities that do not involve the facilitator by dividing the group into smaller reflection groups, or allow the group to “self-process”.

• Allow for both individual reflection and group consensus activities to reach different learning styles and for richer reviewing experiences.

• Take a risk. Experiment. Allow for the chance that an activity might flop. There is always something to be learned. Some effective tools have been created purely by accident.

• Let participants know why they are reflecting. Talk about the value of reflective practice.

• In group discussions use open ended questions. Summarize or restate what was said or even better, have a group member restate the discussion

• Leave time for processing. Be patient.

• Allow for closure at the end of the program, and not just a 5 minute wrap up. Allow participants time to think about what they learned and how they will apply it to the real world.

Copyrighted material. 2005 All Rights Reserved by the authors.

An excerpt from the book, A Teachable Moment, by Michelle Cummings, Jennifer Stanchfield and Jim Cain.