Encouraging student collaboration

The importance of a Debrief

The last piece of the puzzle for any learning activity you plan with student is the role of the  ‘debrief’. This is language often used with simulated learning, or problem based learning. The ‘debrief’ can be described as guided questioning aimed to prompt critical reflection or evaluation following a learning experience (Dufrene & Young, 2014). Studies have found debriefing extremely effective for student learning, and the method you use to debrief does not matter (Dufrene & Young, 2014).  

In the Zoom context, this is an opportunity for you to solidify the learning of students through the activity, by discussing what they have learnt, and how it relates to unit content, assessment etc. Your role in this process, is as the facilitator. It is important to give students time to think, reflect and communicate appropriately for debriefs to occur organically.

Start by setting your expectations of how the ‘debrief’ will look following any activity, and have some open ended questions prepared that will foster discussion between yourself and students.

Examples of questions you could ask students to debrief an activity are (depending on of course context):

  • Why do you think that activity was important?
  • How did it help reframe your thinking?
  • What connections does this build from you previously knew on this topic, to now?

This exemplar showcases a debrief a learning activity where students were in breakout rooms. The debrief includes:

  • Getting one team member to report on what the group discussed.
  • Getting a member from the other team to type up discussion notes on the whiteboard.