Why Reflection Following Team Training Improves  Learning And Development

“I led the pigeons to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for Richard Stands. One nation under guard, invisible, with library just down the hall.”

Do you recognize these words? It is the Pledge of Allegiance of United States, as recited by first graders. The actual words are:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

To first graders, words and concepts like allegiance, indivisible, or liberty don’t make much sense. Because they haven’t learned them. They know what they know, and that informs everything. Adults are not that different.  

We, adults, have more life experience, yes. This shapes our beliefs, behaviors, and outlook. What we know, forms neural pathways in the brain which get stronger over the years, as we keep re-using them. Just like trails are formed on mountains – the more animals and humans keep using a specific path, it gets more defined. These, like the set neural paths in our brain, are hard to change.

But, change is still possible for our brain. We learn when our brain makes connections between neurons – they fire together to wire together. That’s how they communicate and form neural pathways. Any new information is interpreted based on these connections. If we don’t have one, we experience resistance.

So how do we integrate new information? By reflecting.

Reflection converts an experience into tangible takeaways. Learning is sensory. Our body picks up data – what we’ve seen, heard, felt – and sends it to our brain to make meaning. If we don’t pause to throw light on this unconscious process, we may move through life without learning much.

That’s why at the end of LATE NITE ART, we ask you to think about how your experience was. Or extract a moment that really stands out for you, and explore what makes it so.

Here’s how you can create reflection moments for your team:

What, not why: 

Humans always want to understand the reason behind things. So, we ask ‘why.’ But, ‘why’ makes us defensive. Because there are times we don’t know why something happened. Replace ‘why’ with ‘what’. Some go-to ‘what’ questions are:

  • What happened for you in that workshop?

  • Did anyone find it challenging or uncomfortable? What made it so?

  • What are some thoughts (or feelings) you’re sitting with?

Mix it up:

Reflection is largely thought to be a solo process. While that may be true, sharing reflections is critical to strengthening learning. It reinforces the neural connections the brain is trying to form.

  • Ask participants to free write on the question “I learned that…” They write nonstop for 2 minutes – ALL thoughts are welcome. Then, they choose 2-3 lines to share with the group.

  • Want to take it to the next level? Stitch everyone’s lines together to create a collaborative poem that encompasses everyone’s takeaways.

Philosopher Michael Polyani said, “We know more than we can say.” Reflection helps us dig into what we really know, so we can use it. What’s your favorite way to do so?