Reflection is one of the most basic and powerful activities during workshops. In essence it is the process of learning from experiences. It powers the growth of individuals and teams as well as entire organisations.
Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output
Take as many valuable insights and learning from people’s experiences, either from collaborating together or from an exercise during a workshop.
Way/level of dealing with subject at stake
Self-reflection, partner reflection.
Application in moderation cycle
In the middle and towards the end of a cycle; after exercises.
Anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.
Level of difficulty
Reflection exercises can easily be self-facilitated and only require someone to keep track of time, put up the questions and announce what to do.
Pen and paper in case of a self-reflection exercise.
Reflection means to look at something from a distance in order to discover new insights and learnings for next time, and to enhance people’s perspective on issues which affect them. It is a very simple practice and anyone can do it – but we tend not to take the time to do it.
In workshops, you can either take experiences from exercises done with the group or take participants’ previous experiences as sources for reflection. The direction of the reflection is set through the type of questions you ask. You can ask more general questions such as:
“What did you observe in the last exercise?”
“When you look back at situation xyz, is there any observation you can make about it?”
With a bit more focus (if you want to highlight positive aspects or critical moments for instance), you can ask questions as follows:
“What were you really happy about and what didn’t go as you wished – and why?”
Furthermore, reflection questions can be connected to a topic:
“When you look at this situation, what observations can you make that give you insights into diversity and discrimination?”
Note that reflection means to be operating on a meta level, which implies not judging but rather exploring and observing what happened. So, it is not about judging an action as good or bad, but about finding out how and why it happened and what lessons can be taken from it for oneself.
Especially in open and/or new processes participants – in real life and during workshops – can make mistakes. Extensive reflections (looking, for example, at what happened, how the protagonists worked it out and what was the learning) can have a healing effect in a situation when otherwise – at least potentially – the participant might feel negatively about the experience and thus not wish to engage in reflection and learning.
It is advisable therefore to allow enough time for reflection and also for sharing of similar experiences from the other participants who have witnessed the exercise.
There are different ways to encourage people to reflect upon something. To make reflection more powerful, you can apply a number of the following methods one after another.
Put up the question that people ought to reflect upon and give them 5–15 minutes for themselves to ponder that question. If you have several questions, add more time.
Invite everyone to use pen and paper to support their own reflection.
Let people find partners and come together in pairs to reflect upon a question. It is not necessary that they do it one after the other, though that is an option. You can set a time for each one to share their reflections while the other just has to listen. That way, participants do not feel pressured to respond to others and have time to dig up their own thoughts.
Having three people adds a lot of perspective and enriches the reflection. At the same time, it is a little less intimate than doing it alone or in pairs. Therefore, very sensitive topics are perhaps better reflected upon in smaller groups. Also here you can set a time for each person while the others listen carefully.
Eventually, you can pose a question for the whole group to reflect upon. This could be used if, for instance, the topic requires quite some different perspectives to be understood in depth, or to bring reflections from smaller groups into the collective.
To make a reflection really effective, you can have 2–3 of the above methods follow one another successively. You might start with an individual reflection, let the people share their insights in a pair thereafter and then have all insights brought into the group for common reflection. That way, you make sure that each participant is delving into the reflection process enough and becomes more enriched by others’ perspectives.
You can discuss in which situations it would make sense for the participants to pause a moment and reflect upon their experiences in their daily lives. Subsequently, how could that be implemented so they would really do it?