10 ways to structure group reflection

A group of keen learners

Have you ever been in a group situation, the session finishes and you haven’t had the chance to close off the experience, capture your thinking and consider what difference the experience will make to your life? I have. If I leave a session not having had time to reflect before I get distracted into other activities, then I feel things are unfinished. I want to know that I have at least gone some distance to consolidate my understanding of the ideas or experience I have just had.

I don’t know about you but I am interested as a trainer/facilitator in helping participants from groups take away from sessions key ideas that they can then implement into their own lives (client groups) and practice (training groups). Structured reflection helps to translate what we do during a session to the outside world. My view has always been that unless we have developed a way for the person to do something different (behaviour change), then we have somehow failed in our endeavours. Understanding in itself can be useful, but is a first, rather than last step in the process.

  1.  Ask the participant to reflect on what they are now aware of since coming into the session – a typical question I might pose is, “What are you now aware of that you weren’t at the start of the session?”, or “What new ways are you seeing your situation now compared to when you walked in the door?”
  2. Ask the participant to identify what they will do differently as a result of the experience (commitment to action). I like to ask the question, “What will you be doing differently as a result of the session?”
  3. Have participants interview another in the group about their changes using a guided question sheet. The questions will be related to the content of the session.
  4. Have participants brainstorm questions someone is likely to ask them about what they are trying the change. The second part of the process is for them to answer the questions for themselves. This rehearsal can make a huge difference in consolidating thinking and rehearsing responses.
  5. Provide thinking/worksheets for participants to be able to take away with them and use as reflection tools over the following few days. This will again aid in consolidating information.
  6. Have the group participants develop their own quiz game (20 questions is one of my favourites) to test the understanding of others in the session. This also provides feedback on how well participants have understood the content. Note the catch is they also have to have the answers to the questions.
  7. Run a team quiz of the key content and application of the content. While this is similar to the above, the facilitators or trainers take responsibility for the questions.
  8. Rehearse the conversation they might have with others who are interested in what they might be learning/experiencing in the group. This will both consolidate change while at the same time building an audience. The more times we rehearse our understanding of new understandings, the more we convince ourselves.
  9. Set up an interview tree whereby participants can talk with others about how they are progressing away from the group. The key is have the most interested people as the first ‘go to people’ then spreading out to less interested. This mitigates the risk of contamination and undermining of change.
  10. Set up a Facebook page that participants can visit to review, post comments, and revise ideas as the group progresses.

It is important to provide reflection and consolidation time for any learning to become ‘sticky’. We want really sticky to make new ideas stick. Love to hear your thoughts.

Published on Wednesday, June 27th, 2012, under Learning & development, Practice tips and techniques, Programme design & development

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