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Tips on Observing and Facilitating "Debriefing" Session

Source: Coalition of Essential Schools

Observation Tips

  1. Have a conversation (if possible) before observing, and talk about the goals of the lesson or session. Then when debriefing, ask the person how wells/he thinks s/he met those goals.
  2. Be specific. Ask the other person to describe specific behaviors, etc. as well. If possible, take some sort of notes, and/or "script" some portion of the class or session. It helps if you and the person being observed have decided beforehand what would be most useful to script.
  3. Focus on a couple of aspects of the class or session; watch all participants (ie: the students as well as the teacher).
  4. Ask about the larger context of the observation -- what happened in the previous session? What are the plans for the following session?
  5. Describe what you (as observer) thought was happening, and ask for feedback.
  6. Ask what the person being observed thought of the session or lesson.
  7. Give positive feedback; ask what the other person thought went well, and share what you thought went well.
  8. Let the other person know that you have encountered similar difficulties; share the major issues and difficulties which still perplex you; acknowledge the realities of the classroom.
  9. Ask what the person being observed would do differently if s/he could do the session/lesson over again.
  10. Assume that you will learn something new from the observation and/or the debriefing session, and acknowledge it when you do. Construct knowledge together.

Facilitation Tips

  1. Turn concerns into questions, and direct concerns and questions back to the group. Ask the participants what they would do about the concerns and how they would answer the questions. If the concerns have to do with the group's process, again, ask the group how it would like to handle them.
  2. Acknowledge tensions and conflicts in the group, and help the group to negotiate the conflicts and to talk about the tensions.
  3. Validate feelings by recognizing/acknowledging them, and talking about them if the group thinks that is necessary.
  4. Listen carefully, and sum up when necessary. Restate problems/issues for the group.
  5. Check in with the group, and propose courses of action. Frame these as questions.
  6. When discussion gets off track, listen and acknowledge comments, but then direct the group back to its focus. If all members of the group seem to want to go in another direction, acknowledge that and ask for a group decision on reframing its task, focus.
  7. Notice who isn't speaking, and develop strategies for including those people. (ie. Let's all go around and say what we think/how we feel; does anyone who hasn't had a chance to speak yet want to say anything?)
  8. Evaluate what is being said in terms of what it means from the speaker's perspective (rather than evaluating it in terms of what it means to you).
  9. Be aware of what is happening in the group -- ie: restlessness, silences, eye contact, body language.

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Last modified: June 2, 2004

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