Debriefing the PBL Process

many small light bulbs equal big one

After any new project is complete, debriefing is the crucial step most frequently overlooked by teachers. Sometimes the most important parts of learning lie in the reflections we have after the event, lesson, or unit is over. There are a number of ways to debrief but two are my absolute favorite methods.

First and foremost, self-reflection is my preferred method. Scheduling time to stop and review your work can be hard to do but is necessary. Learning logs like this one make the process easier as one can look back and review thoughts and plans they had weeks or months previously. Things often appear differently in retrospect so recording the process as you go along is exceptionally important.

My second preferred method of debriefing is to collect feedback from others. If I am teaching a class or conducting a training, I want to know what the participants think about what worked and what didn’t. With any project or plan, there’s always room for improvement as we cannot always predict how others will interpret or react to our work no matter how well structured it is. Secondly, having strong peer feedback is important. I am fortunate to have a strong network of social studies colleagues that I can call and ask for help anytime. They are happy to look over lesson plans, instructions, outlines, etc. and point out things that work or need work.

Ideally, a teacher employs both types of debriefing and uses the feedback from both to create a full picture of needs and strengths. Debriefing should never happen just once in the life of an instructional project. Rather, teachers should debrief often and continue to improve practice. I think formative feedback before, during, and after implementation is most beneficial with the before implementation comments coming from peers and the during and after feedback from students or participants.


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