This wasn't actually a new idea to me, because it was incorporated into the old Venturing Leadership Skills Course. When I taught that course to my youth we used the reflections to teach the leadership lessons as part of the course. That same practice is continued with the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews (ILSC).
For those who may not be familiar with the idea, let me quote a few points from the ILSC:
"We can make our experiences more meaningful and effective if we reflect upon them. In Venturing, reflection is simply the process of the Venturers talking about their experiences immediately after an exercise or activity with a little bit of wise moderating."
"You can use reflections to evaluate crew activities, and it will result in improved engagement by your Venturers in future planning and execution of activities. Leading reflections is a simple process that can greatly enhance the learning process."They say it's simple, and I guess it is, but I'm afraid I'm not very good at it. It takes some practice to do well, and it requires the leader to be on the look-out for meaningful experiences. I'm hoping that as we get used to doing them, the young men will take the lead in conducting the reflections as well as looking for meaning in our activities.
To begin a reflection, lay out the ground rules:
- No putdowns allowed; every response is welcome and valid.
- The person conducting the reflection should not show disapproval of a response or a person, either verbally or nonverbally. (This can be tough, especially when you have that one boy who insists on goofing off all the time....)
Asking open-ended questions is key. Those are ones they can't answer with just a yes or no. Questions that begin with what, why, and how are good: "What was the purpose of the game?"
Asking youth to make judgements is also good: "Why was [x] a good idea?"
Feeling questions are also good: "How did it feel when the team started working together?"
To close the reflection, summarize the key points. If the reflection is done well, the youth mentioned all the important stuff and you don't need to follow it up with anything more than a summary. In my crew, we've been ending the reflection with a prayer. (This also has the added benefit of a sense of finality to the activity, keeping everyone together until the end, instead of slowly migrating to the gym sometime along the way.)
I have only been able to use this a couple times in the past month or so, but I think it really helps. We have had some pretty mediocre activities lately (partly due to attendance, partly to poor planning), but we were still able to find some good lessons in even the simplest of games.