Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Tale from the Field: A Structure for Reflection: How We Organize Our Post-Program Debrief Lunch Meeting Routine

From Ray Cramer, Senior Faculty for Teaching Practicum at Islandwood, Bainbridge Island, Washington.

This is an example of how the Islandwood Graduate Program (Bainbridge Island, Washington) structures their post-program debrief meeting to maximize reflection and learning.

Instructors get good food, sit in mentor/mentee groups, and discuss their week. Program leaders ask staff to not “give it all away” to the kids on the final day of their 4-day program, so they have some energy for the debrief lunch. The kitchen staff prepares a high-quality adult meal for this meeting. Once the kids are put on the buses, everyone on staff grabs a lunch, sits with their mentor/mentee group of 3–5, and engages in discussion about stories from the week and general chatting. Then these groups dig into discussing the “topic of the week” that was introduced on the first day of the program.

What would you do? Sometimes, the whole group engages in the routine: What Would You Do? An instructor describes a challenging instructional situation they found themselves in and stops short of describing the decision they made in the moment. The rest of the group is asked to discuss in table groups “What would you do?” if you were the instructor in this situation, including how that response is informed by their theory of learning. Some of these ideas are shared out with the whole group. Then the person who posed the question describes what they actually did. Before they share, the leader reminds everyone that there’s some risk involved for the person who is sharing. They’re putting themselves “out there.” The leader explains that the group just spent several minutes with lots of brainpower and little risk thinking about what to do, while the instructor in the actual situation had only seconds. It’s acknowledged that what the instructor did was probably less nuanced and elegant than the ideas they just suggested. This routine improves instructional decision-making and also helps keep the instructors open and vulnerable.

Whole-group share: “Stories from the week.” Next, folks who functioned in a semi-leadership role during the week lead “Stories From the Week,” calling on a few instructors to share highlights from the program.

Leaders share teacher feedback, logistics, gratitudes, announcements. Leaders share feedback and general impressions that classroom teachers gave with the whole group. Any logistics that need to be discussed are brought up (e.g., “There’s a fallen tree on Ridge Trail,” “The spotting scope needs repair,” etc.). Anyone in the group is invited to share gratitudes (“What are you thankful for from this week?”—people, opportunities, how kids approached the week, how teachers supported kids, etc.). Finally, any necessary announcements are made.

Outline of the Post-Program Debrief Lunch Meeting Routine:

  1. Get good food and sit in groups with mentors
  2. Discuss: Food, stories, question of the week
  3. Whole group/small group: What Would You Do?
  4. Whole-group share: Stories From the Week
  5. Leaders share teacher feedback
  6. Logistics
  7. Gratitudes
  8. Announcements

This whole process takes about 2 hrs. and 15 min., but it really functions as a feast for stomachs and a feast for the brain—and certain steps could be omitted to work within the context of your program.

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