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Methods: Debriefing a Field Assignment

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Debriefing Form Explanation
Debriefing Form UWP Short Debriefing Form

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: November 27, 1999
Latest update: August 27, 2002
E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Debriefing Form Explanation
Adapted from Howard Richards' Peacemaking Methods Course

An important part of critical theory is its articulation with praxis. This stems, with many theorists, from Marx's concern for an active social theory that would strive to make people free and self-governing. But the approach is not limited to Marxists and post-Marxists. The concern for praxis is shared by all those who would make peace and respect of all peoples for one another a part of their guiding philosophy.

Remember to review the section of Richards' site on the theoretical foundation for this activity:

"Here is the succinct explanation of what the investigative team looks for in the service learning experience and what it does with it. The general aim is "moral and intellectual reform" (a Gramscian concept). To accomplish the reform it is necessary to move "from common sense to good sense" (another Gramscian concept), starting where people are, that is to say, with "common sense."

Translated into our courses this means that we are attempting to listen in good faith to someone different from us in the spirit of developing our skills at moral and intellectual caring for the Others with whom we live in this world. Sartre would call this authentic good faith, not closing ourselves off from hearing in good faith other perspectives. Habermas would call such listening essential to legitmacy and public discourse.

In order to establish what the common sense of a given human group is, it is necessary to do a "codification of the thematic universe," (a Freirian concept). In order to move from common sense toward good sense it is necessary to seek and find "untested feasibilities" (another Freirian concept) and "generative themes" (a Freirian concept already extended by his Chilean followers considerably beyond the meaning Freire originally gave it; for Freire a "generative theme" was a unit of meaning usable in a consciousness-raising approach to literacy; in Chile a "generative theme" could also be a pauta social [social norm] usable to generate social change)."

Howard Richards' Peacemaking Methods Course

Translated into our course this means a good faith hearing of major issues as they are perceived by these Others. It also means that we put our effort and expertise into listening for validity claims that have been suppressed and that we can help to clarify in terms that make sense in the language of our own experiences and group.

The aim of the "praxis" activity in our courses is to give you a taste of interaction with a group you do not know, likely to have ideals and practices different from your own. Although Richards is offering an entire course in this methodology, we are offering this single opportunity for you to compare this method of social change with what you have already experienced, the better to engage in public discourse with the many who are committed to social change through many different approaches.

Corporate managers who are committed to ever-increasing profit margins are committed to social change, just social change of a different type. The major issues we face as a people in the 21st century will involve the kinds of social change we choose, as nation states, as ethnic groups, as one people lliving on one earth. If you have always believed that people count more than profit, try getting to know a group that's firmly committed to competitive business. If you have always believed in competition and achievement, try getting to know a group that is more committed to sharing and community.

In this form, I have merely translated Howard Richards' notes into a form to guide you through the debriefing of the "praxis" you have chosen for one of our course requirements. The ideas are Richards; but the translation is mine, and I am responsible for any misinterpretation of Richards' procedure of debriefing. jeanne



Debriefing Form

  1. Topic Pre-Approved?
  2. Class members involved in interaction?
  3. Class members involved in debriefing?
  4. Individual, Group, Setting
    1. What group or individual did you choose to interact with?
    2. What did you imagine they would be like before you interacted with them?
    3. Suggestions to spark your thinking:

      • Just like me.
      • Coarse, discourteous.
      • Welcoming, friendly.
      • Hard to connect with.
      • Easy to talk to.
      • More like me than I thought.
      • Arrogant.
      • Not very understanding of me.
      • Smart alecky.
      • Other - any variation of the above that works for you. Any other perceptions you have.

  5. Insertion
    1. What did you do to make contact with the group you chose?
    2. Spontaneous or planned? Somewhere in between?

      Accepted? Repulsed? Somewhere in between?

    3. Suggestions to spark your thinking:
      • Saw them; was curious; just walked up to them without a plan.
      • Saw them; was curious; but didn't have the courage to talk to them.
      • Saw them; planned an approach.
      • Thought about a group that might fit assignment. Planned approach.
      • Thought about a group. Thought about an approach. Panicked and didn't approach them.
      • Thought about a group and an approach. No time to carry it out.
      • Approached a group. They rejected my approach.
      • Other - any variation of the above that works for you.

    4. Describe the context in which the interaction occurred, if it did occur.
      • School
      • Playground
      • Local store
      • Waiting in line at the movies
      • Cafeteria at school
      • Library
      • Park
      • Church or religious gathering
      • Celebration or party
      • Local neighborhood
      • Mall
      • Other

    5. As briefly as you can (try for 25 words) describe your actual approach to the group.
    6. What did you do to make contact with the group you chose?
    7. Spontaneous or planned? Somewhere in between?

      Accepted? Repulsed? Somewhere in between?

      Suggestions to spark your thinking:

      • Saw them; was curious; just walked up to them without a plan.
      • Saw them; was curious; but didn't have the courage to talk to them.
      • Saw them; planned an approach.
      • Thought about a group that might fit assignment. Planned approach.
      • Thought about a group. Thought about an approach. Panicked and didn't approach them.
      • Thought about a group and an approach. No time to carry it out.
      • Approached a group. They rejected my approach.
      • Other - any variation of the above that works for you. Any other perceptions you have.

    8. As briefly as you can (try for 25 words) describe your actual approach to the group.
    9. If you considered your approach successful, what in that approach would you recommend to others wanting to complete this field experience?
    10. If you considered your approach unsuccessful, what do you think might have altered that?

  6. Theory, Policy, Practice
  7. How does this debriefing relate to theory policy practice? Explain why for each.

    Questions to Spark Ideas

    1. Theory:
      1. people are basically good and want to please others
      2. people are basically greedy and won't work unless you make them
      3. supervision is structurally violent in that it privileges the supervisor's subjectivity, and allows little input for local narrative
      4. supervision is essential if anything is to be accomplished
      5. A smooth bureaucracy has to have some basic rules; has to establish limits

    2. Policy:
      1. who belongs to this group?
      2. are there any rules about who can belong?
      3. does anyone have any responsibility to anyone else?
      4. Is there a hierachy of command decision-making? Who's in charge of what?
      5. Is there any accountability process? Does it run both ways?

    3. Practice:
      1. are people interacting with this group perceived as dependent or independent?
      2. what kind of treatment does that accord them? They're always right, or the primary group is always right?
      3. who does the decision-making? the people who come for what they want? or the people who provide what the people who come to the group want?
      4. is status ascribed to one or the other group? On what basis?

  8. What did you learn about the group you visited?
  9. Suggestions to spark your thinking:

    • They were nice people. (Explain in what way they were "nice," and why that feels like something you learned.)
    • Hard to get beyond formulaic conversation: where from? where work or not work? Kind of like name, rank, and serial number.
    • Didn't repulse or exclude me. (Include a few facts that show that.)
    • With more time I could have learned more. (Give facts that lead you to this conclusion.)
    • They were more uncomfortable than I was. (Give facts that lead you to this conclusion.)
    • I could have managed better if they had come into my territory.
    • It was an interesting field trip. (Explain what made it "interesting!")
    • Other - any variation of the above that works for you. Any other perceptions you have.

  10. Did you learn any names, and why does that matter?
  11. Suggestions to spark your thinking:

    • Names humanize.
    • Names give me paper clips to pull out of my apperceptive mass.
    • Names require me to listen actively.
    • Names dignify by returning the person to subject, not an object.
    • Names acknowledge difference.
    • They asked my name, giving me respect, too.
    • Names personalize and make others seem more like me.
    • Titles used with names show greater social distance.
    • Given names reduce social distance.
    • History and custom matter in the "acceptable social distance."
    • Other - any variation of the above that works for you. Any other perceptions you have.



UWP Short Debriefing Form

Instructions:
1. If your field experience was not something I arranged, then your field experience must be pre-approved. Your field experience must relate to the course.
2. Submit your debriefing in printed form (do NOT e-mail it to me). You are encouraged to submit your written debriefings well before the final absolute deadline in order to allow some time to dialogue with me. This is a critical part of your field experience debriefing.
3. If you have any questions, see the above detailed explanation or just ask me.

UWP Debriefing Questions:

  1. When was this field experience pre-approved?
  2. Why did you select this field experience? And, how does your field experience relate to the course?
  3. Describe what your field experience was all about.
  4. How does this field experience relate to theory, policy, practice? Explain why for each.
    • Which theory discussed in class best applies to your field experience? Why.
    • What policies are most relevant to your field experience? Why.
    • What actually goes on in practice? And, how does practice differ from theory and policy? Why.
  5. What is the most important thing learned from your field experience? Why

    Note: Your debriefing should be 2-3 pages double-spaced typed. Do not e-mail your debriefing to me.



Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, August 2002.
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