25 After the session: debrief, assessment and reflection

What happens after we engage with the scenes is as important as how we use the scenes themselves. I have used the following four strategies to create space for learners to process and reflect on their experiences with the scenes:
  1. Have an immediate debrief
  2. Provide safer space for meaningful feedback
  3. Include a short assessment about the learning on implicit bias
  4. Re-introduce opportunity for reflection after some time has passed.

1. Immediate In Class Debrief

I offer learners the opportunity to debrief their experience in class immediately after we use the scenes. I do not have an agenda and my goal is simply to “hold space” (Plett, 2015) for learners to process and give voice (either out loud or internally) to what they have learned and to listen to their classmates. The kinds of debrief questions I ask might include questions from the list below. However, the debrief will always be responsive to the class climate and dynamics around safety and trust. The debrief environment should be taken as seriously as we take creating a safer, brave and principled space for the activity itself.

As we prepare for our debrief, I remind all learners of our group commitment. This is a safer place and we listen to each other without judgement. As learners share their insights and experiences, I try to remember to thank each student for their comments without judgement (even positive judgement). In this way, each person’s comments are equally held within the group.

  1. Was anything unexpected or surprising about today’s class? What was that like for you?
  2. In what way did this experience of examining your own implicit biases through participatory theatre challenge or reinforce your values, beliefs, or attitudes?
  3. What do you understand better about yourself as a result of the experience?
  4. Did you give this activity your best effort? If so, what supported you? If not, what hindered you?
  5. Did anyone offer an insight that you wouldn’t have come to on your own?
  6. Are there parts of this activity that you want to disagree with or critique?
  7. Is there anyone you would like to thank after today’s experience?
  8. Is there anything else anyone would like to share?

2. Safer opportunity for meaningful feedback

With the risks that come with this activity also comes responsibility. I need to set up authentic and safe opportunities for learners to offer feedback about this activity (with an anonymous option). In our current approach, we collect anonymous responses from learners about their experiences and use their responses to refine our practice.

If the impact of our program has been harmful to a student, or if I or the other facilitators have made a mistake that has caused harm, students need to know where to go express their experience and concerns. We work with leaders from Human Rights and Equity at our institution to create channels for student support and feedback.

We also make relevant campus resources available at the beginning of the class. These include information about Aboriginal Student Services, Mental Health Services and Human Rights and Equity. Each of these services offer valuable, accessible and prompt student support.

3. Short assessment

Assessment is tricky. On one hand, it is difficult and perhaps counter productive to put a grade on student reflection about this kind of work. Yet at the same time, education literature is clear that assessment supports (Scott, 2020) and even drives student learning (Bezuidenhout & Alt, 2011). There is also a danger that if this work is not in some way assessed, students will not take it as seriously. To balance these tensions, I assign a reflexive task for students to complete immediately after we use the scenes. If they do it, they earn full marks; if they don’t do it, they do not earn any marks. In this way, the grade is connected with their engagement and participation and not with any external assessment or judgement. Students have reported that this approach has freed them from “trying to give the instructor what she wants to get a good grade” to being able to focus on deep learning and reflection. When I initially took this approach, I feared that the students might not take it seriously. In reality, the opposite happened. Students tend to take this reflection very seriously and write far more—and far more deeply—than would be required.

The initial “assessment” is simply to reflect on the same questions that I have used in the full class debrief. (See Immediate in-class debrief.) Learners are asked to pick one or two of the questions of their choice and reflect on them on their own, in an assignment that will be handed in.

4. Re-introduce opportunity for reflection after some time has passed

I revisit the topic of implicit bias later in the term, through readings, lecture content, class discussion and another opportunity for group and personal reflection. One thing I have done is ask students to visit “Project Implicit” (n.d.) and take the Implicit Association Test (IAT). This test was developed by psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington with the goal of measuring implicit biases. With a reminder to visit the Canadian site, students are requested to visit the IAT site and take at two of the tests (their choice).

Students are then asked to reflect on the following questions in one page, with the caveat that if they want to take the assignment in a different direction that they think would better support their learning or need for a debrief, that is their prerogative. The questions include: Did anything surprise you about your experience with the IAT? How did this activity, combined with the exercise with Mirror Theatre in class earlier this term, help you to think about your own implicit biases? Did these two experiences give you new insights into the readings or our lesson about implicit bias in health? Please explain. How do you think being intentional about understanding your own implicit biases will support you as you become a professional in the health or medical sciences? If you wanted to continue with this learning, what might some of your next steps be?

5. Developing a rubric for reflexive assignments

Brock’s Experiential Learning Team provides resources on the value of reflecting on learning and on how to develop reflexive assignments and rubrics that we find very helpful as starting places for assessing this work. Drawing from Denton (2011), they have helped our team to understand that “Reflection is a central feature of experiential education and serves the function of solidifying connection between what a student experienced and the meaning/learning that they derived from that experience” (Brock University, Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, n.d.).


Haunting our Biases: Using Participatory Theatre to Interrupt Implicit Bias Copyright © 2022 by Kevin Hobbs; Michael Martin Metz; Nadia Ganesh; Sheila O'Keefe-McCarthy; Joe Norris; Sandy Howe; and Valerie Michaelson. All Rights Reserved.

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