Five-Phase Format for Reflection and Discussion

By moving through the five phases below, participants in a workshop, meeting, Writing Workshop, or class can reflect on a shared topic through listening, writing, and speaking.

1. Freewriting with two goals: To get present (clearing away distracting concerns from your busy lives); and to begin to consider the topic of the session.

2. Check-In: One thing that is on top for you as you come into the workshop. It may be a concern or question about the topic of the session, or it may be something else going on for you.

3. Dialogue Process: Listening with structured turn taking to speak that can begin by building on what is said in the Check-In about the topic of the session. Through inquiry more than advocacy, including inquiry of one's own thinking, themes usually emerge. Participants should build on what has been said by previous speakers (as against rehearsing a position you had established before the session). The facilitator's role is to participate and, only if needed, remind participants of these guidelines.

Continue the Dialogue Process until about seven minutes before the session ends.

4. Writing to gather thoughts: Spend a few minutes writing down (so you can refer back later) what has emerged that is most meaningful for you. (An online Plus-Delta or Critical Incident Questionnaire form might be used to share these thoughts afterwards.)

5. Closing Circle: Share something you plan to address or get done or think more about based on the session. Having this aired in the group—having it witnessed—makes it more likely to happen.

Note: This process is also known as a “Dialogue Hour,” but the format can be used for periods that are shorter or longer than an hour.