Training of trainers – NFL and interactive methods in Youth work – ACHIEVE

Lesson 29 – Six phases of debriefing – text

text lesson

In lesson 28 term debriefing is used to refer general process of reflecting over experiencial activities. Here term Debriefing is used as a name of specific method for reflection process.

Debriefing is the structured group discussion of the emotions, learning and application opportunities the certain exercise has generated.


Experiential learning exercises can be derived into three phases: briefing – delivery – debriefing. The professional process of Debriefing you can find here.

There are many schools and gurus with different approaches on how to deliver the debriefing. Here is described the 6-phases model. There are three steps and six-phases within the discussion with the participants. You can read the six-phase model to structure debriefing questions.

Delivery Procedure

Notes for trainers from the author (Sivasailam ‘Thiagi’ Thiagarajan) of the debriefing model:

“I firmly believe this principle and keep preaching it to everyone. To me, all experiential learning activities (simulations games, role-plays, outdoor adventures, and other such things) merely provide an excuse for debriefing sessions.

You must conduct a debriefing discussion to help your participants reflect on their experiences, relate them to the real world, discover useful insights, and share them with each other. Debriefing also helps you to wind down the learning activity, reduce negative reactions among the participants, and increase insights.

A major dilemma in debriefing is maintaining a balance between structure and free flow. I suggest that you prepare several questions before the debriefing session. During actual debriefing, encourage and exploit spontaneous comments from the participants. If the conversation degenerates into a stream-of-consciousness meandering, fall back on your prepared list of questions.

I use a six-phase model to structure debriefing questions. Here are some guidelines for each phase of this model.”

Steps of Debriefing

Step 1: Emotions, reactions
  • How do you feel?
  • What has happened?
Step 2: Learning
  • What did you learn?
  • How does this relate to the real world?
Step 3: Application
  • What if?
  • What next?

The Phases of the three steps

Phase 1: How Do You Feel?

This phase gives the participants an opportunity to get strong feelings and emotion off their chest. It makes it easier for them to be more objective during the later phases.

Begin this phase with a broad question that invites the participants to get in touch with their feelings about the activity and its outcomes. Encourage them to share these feelings, listening actively to one another in a nonjudgmental fashion.

Phase 2: What Has Happened?

In this phase, collect data about what happened during the activity. Encourage the participants to compare and contrast their recollections and to draw general conclusions during the next phase.

Begin this phase with a broad question that asks the participants to recall important events from the training activity. Create and post a chronological list of events. Ask questions about specific events.

Phase 3: What Did You Learn?

In this phase, encourage the participants to generate and test different hypotheses. Ask the participants to come up with principles based on the activity and discuss them.

Begin this phase by presenting a principle and asking the participants for data that supports or rejects it. Then invite the participants to offer other principles based on their experiences.

Phase 4: How Does This Relate To The Real World?

In this phase, discuss the relevance of the activity to the participants’ real-world experiences.

Begin with a broad question about the relationship between the experiential learning activity and events in the workplace. Suggest that the activity is a metaphor and ask participants to offer real-world analogies.

DO NOT FORGET: Real life analogy with the exercise itself and NOT with the learning! Give them enough time to think individually or even in pairs or triads. Then ask them what real cases, situations, activities are the same as the exercise or the failures/mistakes happened during the exercise showed. Put all or the best cases on flipchart too!

Phase 5: What If?

In this phase, encourage the participants to apply their insights to new contexts. Use alternative scenarios to speculate on how people’s behaviors would change.

Begin this phase with a change scenario and ask the participants to speculate on how it would have affected the process and the outcomes of the activity. Then invite the participants to offer their own scenarios and discuss them.

Possible questions in this phase:

  • What would you do differently next time when delivering this exercise?
  • How would you change your actions, decisions when doing the activity next?
  • What to change next time to be successful?
Phase 6: What Next?

In this phase, ask the participants to undertake action planning. Ask them to apply their insights from the experiential activity to the real world.

Begin this phase by asking the participants to suggest strategies for use in future rounds of the activity.

Follow with such questions:

  • How the learnings you listed can be in the concrete cases you collected be applied?
  • If you said that you would do the exercise………… (Differently) then what should you change in your concrete cases you mentioned (and you can read on flipchart)?

Then ask the participants how they will change their real-world behavior as a result of the insights gained from the activity CONCRETELY. Ask them to make commitments!

Important note for trainers or facilitators

You cannot miss any of the listed steps or change the sequence. Only this well-structured format will lead the participants to the last phase, the action planning. Between each steps there is a strong logical connection, if you miss any or mix up the order this logical link will be broken.


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The training program “Training of Trainers” is an educational product that is currently missing in the partner countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. Due to the early stage of development of the youth sector and youth work in these countries the educational materials aimed at non-formal learning are still limited and insufficient. The lack of adequate educational framework for training of youth workers in the field of formal education leads to inefficient use of the capacity of professionals.

This course fills a gap in the youth sector, namely the need of methodologies for the preparation of trainers, who are able to train youth workers. This course will set the basis for the preparation of teams of trainers of youth workers. The course will serve the goal of development of youth work in the participating countries and other interested parties. A large number of youth workers can be trained according to the methodology at national and international level to use and promote non-formal learning as a tool to enhance the realization of young people in the labor market and increase their social cohesion.

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