College students are “developmentally ready” for self-awareness activities, but they may be very unfamiliar with the process of reflection and exploration that it calls for. An excellent set of general questions for debriefing any activity comes from Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, editor of the Thiagi Gameletter (February 1999, Volume 1 Number 10), copyright 1999 by Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
Thiagi recommends that you generate a few questions from six general areas ahead of time to use as needed to stimulate exploration and reflection. If you have them on an overhead slide (one slide per area), you can pace the debriefing by shifting from one to the other as time and the students’ responses indicate. Thiagi generally recommends that the debriefing be more than just a quick series of reaction statements and that it sometimes may last longer than the activity itself.
1. How did you feel during the exercise? (focus on several key parts of the activity to activate students’ feelings)
2. What happened during the exercise? (direct attention to major points during the event and have students describe how they responded)
3. What did you learn? (explore the meanings and insights they made of different aspects of the activity)
4. How does this relate to other parts of your life? (identify any other “puzzling” situations that the students can think of that might stimulate similar responses)
5. What if? (Have students suggest other possible perspectives or changes that might have led to different outcomes and see if they can explain their reasoning for how things would turn out differently)
6. What next? (Ask students to speculate how they might react the next time this happens, or in other similar situations in the future)
If students are slow to respond in the large group setting, start by having them discuss the questions with a partner and then gather some responses from the group afterwards. That sequence can stimulate their ideas and help them become more confident and responsive in the whole group setting.
–Tobin Quereau, Faculty, Behavioral Sciences, Austin Community College, TX