Let’s say you find the perfect learning game—for communication, listening, negotiation, leadership, process improvement, problems solving, critical thinking, time management—then what? Games work because they remove players from their usual setting and create a safe environment to take risks and try new approaches. But, playing the game isn’t enough. Behavioral change relies on a debrief that draws out “ah-ha” moments and applies those to real-world challenges. Get the most out of your learning game by using this Debrief Infographic. The graphic is chock full of tips and processing questions to help you conduct the perfect debrief.
The graphic divides the debriefing process into three parts: 1) Process and discuss the experience; 2) Commit and plan next steps; and 3) Remember and take action.
Consider “process” as both a verb and a noun. The core of a debriefing exercise entails taking time to actively process the experience – consider what happened, how you felt about it, and what you learned from it. The process you use to do that can take a variety of forms, but the key to each is asking good questions.
No matter what questioning paradigm you choose, facilitators are well-advised to adhere to these six tips:
When it comes to finding the perfect question(s) to ask, we’ve found these to work quite well in a variety of situations, but of course every facilitator should adapt the recommendations to the needs of their group, exercise, and goals.
Without judgement or evaluation, help your group develop a common understanding of what happened. Sometimes individuals lend different meaning, or draw different conclusions, from events that occurred or words that were spoken. Help your group distinguish the “what happened” from any interpretations assigned to them. By developing a shared framework, you will help the group avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. In that spirit, ask:
Ask questions to understand the experience of each team member. So What? questions get more to the nuance of how participants experienced the learning activity. The goal at this stage is to understand more about how participants felt, the effectiveness of their different strategies, and the relevance of choosing one strategy over another. You might ask:
Now What? questions are the first step in teasing out the implications of the simulated activity on the group’s “real world” challenges. While the benefit of simulated exercises, games and activities is precisely to remove players from their real-world situations, the end goal is to come full circle and apply the introspection and learning back to day-to-day realities. Facilitators can ask, simply:
The prior “now what?” questions may uncover the important learning points, but they don’t ensure behavior change. They don’t make certain that learning will be applied. The commitment phase, therefore, helps facilitators guide participants into taking action and pledging to next steps. These final questions may help:
As a final step, facilitators will want their group to remember what the learned and to actually do what they said they’d do. The mnemonic C.R.A.M. will help facilitators remember what some of their options are:
C-Create a fun mnemonic (have participants work in teams to come up with something to jog their memories)
R-Record key learning points (ask participants to write down their next steps in an app or document they frequently use)
A-Address and mail a postcard (you can do this, or your participants can)
M-Metaphorical photos (have each person select a photographic image that will remind them of their key take-away)
Facilitators and managers know as well, or better than their group that activities are a waste of time if behaviors don’t change as a result of the experiences. Debriefs don’t have to long, but they must happen. Trainers Warehouse offers additional tools and resources to make the debrief as fun and effective as the learning game itself, including Start-Stop-Continue-Change Sticky Notes, Photographic Card Decks, I-Got-This or Hindsight-is-20/20 notepads, Squeeze Toys, and more.