Debriefing Part 4: 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 mean? To end this series on debriefing, we’ll be looking at some potential questions to aide facilitators in the process.

Have you ever desired to end a meeting or activity with debriefing, but weren’t sure how? Sometimes debriefing can seem more complex and intimidating than it really is. Michigan State University Extension encourages facilitators to learn more about debriefing and how easy it can be to incorporate this enriching activity! In this series of articles we’re going to explore what debriefing is, some techniques for debriefing, age appropriate debriefing, and some best practices. To end this series on debriefing, we’ll be looking at some potential questions to aide facilitators in the process.

Debriefing isn’t nearly as difficult as it might seem, if you know where to start. Planning ahead and knowing what information you want to extract from participants are keys to successful debriefing. Consider the who, what, when, where, and why type of questions as a starting point and then expand from there. suggests 11 prompt questions that can be used to guide the discussion during a debriefing session:

  1. What went well? What didn’t? Why?
  2. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why was there a difference between what we expected to happen and what did?
  3. What organizational constraints or barriers did we face? How did we overcome them, or did we?
  4. What existing organizational models or processes enhanced or enabled our performance on this project?
  5. Did the team meet sufficiently often and work productively together?
  6. Could time pressures have been alleviated by organizing the work differently?
  7. Did we have enough time to accomplish all of the tasks to make this project a success?
  8. Could we have taken another approach to reach our goals more efficiently and effectively?
  9. Was the goal always clear?
  10. Were the instructions always clear?
  11. How can we do better next time?

The University of Wisconsin Extension also suggests some activities that are helpful in debriefing. The Reflection Activity Ideas for Community Service and Service Learning Projects can easily be adapted to fit a variety of projects, activities, meetings or conferences. While versatile in nature, this resource is geared toward youth debriefing but it can also be used with an adult audience. 

Don’t forget to take a look at earlier articles in this series on debriefing:

  • Part 1: The origination of debriefing, the definition, and some key principles for good debriefing.
  • Part 2: Rules and tips for debriefing.
  • Part 3: Age appropriate debriefing with youth and some resources and age-appropriate tips.

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