Debriefing Part 3: What’s that all about?

Have you ever heard someone say “Let’s debrief” or “We’ll finish today by debriefing” but ever really understood what that meant? This article will specifically address debriefing with youth and provides some resources and age-appropriate tips.

Have you ever heard someone say that an activity or meeting was going to end in “Debrief” or a “Debriefing activity” but ever really understood what that meant? Michigan State University Extension encourages debriefing to enrich experiences and offers tips to make this process easy and fun. This series of articles will explore what debriefing is, some techniques for debriefing, age appropriate debriefing, and some best practices. This article will specifically address debriefing with youth and provides some resources and age-appropriate tips.

Debriefing is just for adults, right? Not at all! Did you know that debriefing isn’t just for business meetings and professional conferences? Although those are appropriate places that you might find adults debriefing, there are actually a lot of opportunities for adults to debrief with youth. It’s amazing to learn about how youth problem solve, make decisions, and see opportunities in challenges. The key is finding a way to ask youth their opinion without them feeling like they are being interrogated. 

One way to do that is to use the Experiential Learning Model Processing Questions developed by Dave Hileman. These questions can be used by a facilitator to help youth become engaged in their experiences and rather than telling youth what they should learn, giving them the opportunity to discover their own learning through a guided process. That process can also be referred to as debriefing. Learn more information about implementing the Experiential Learning Model to enrich children’s experiences.

There are many additional ways to debrief with youth. Discover and implement more debriefing techniques to make the process even more rewarding for all. At, there are several examples of simple techniques a facilitator can use to gain insight into how the youth are feeling and what they think about an event or activity. 

Remember that when debriefing with youth, it’s important to consider their mental and physical age. Debriefing doesn’t always need to be a question and answer session; it can be done with games and activities. The language used during a debrief is also important. Consider using words that are appropriate for the age of the youth and aren’t too difficult for them to understand. Also, consider the length of time in which a debrief takes place. Younger youth typically have shorter attention spans, so keep the debrief shorter than you would with older youth.

Don’t forget to take a look at earlier articles in the debriefing series: Part 1, discussing the origination of debriefing, the definition, and some key principles for good debriefing, and part 2, discussing rules and tips for debriefing.

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