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Reflection Fishbowl

Posted by Betsy McCall from Art Monastery Project


Group size

2 – 12

Subgroup size

groups of 5 - 8

Is participant experience relevant?

Some workshop experience of the participants is desirable

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed



30 minutes – 2 hours

Experience level of the facilitator

routine as participant OR professional facilitator

Number of facilitators


Location requirements

A comfortable, quiet, private space and a timer


Level of activation


Hidden curriculum

This method requires self-reflection and vulnerability. It can be very healing and bond-building. The fact is that most people are more critical of themselves than of others, so give people an opportunity to assess themselves in front of their team, followed by the members of the team reflecting what they saw, can have the effect of building compassion.

Woo-Woo Level – How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist “No feelings here, folks.” to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

9 Evaluation

Method Category:

Appreciative / Community building
Awareness raising
Ceremony / Ritual
Collective Intelligence
Conflict resolution
Group communication
Integration of input into daily life
Team Building / Trust Building


After a program, course, or project, the organizing team can use this method to reflect on each person’s role and effectiveness. A powerful tool for internal use amongst a team that has worked closely and trusts each other.



After a program, course, or project, the organizing team can use this method to reflect on each person's roles and effectiveness. Reflection Fishbowl is a powerful tool for internal use amongst a team that has worked closely and trusts each other.


Art Monastery Project



If the event did not go well, or if for any reason, it seems there are fiery emotions amongst the team, offer a space to blow off some steam before beginning the Reflection Fishbowl.

PREPARATION (excluding materials)

Determine how much time will be allotted to each person. Ideally each person has 5-10 minutes to reflect on their own role and then another 5-10 minutes to receive feedback from the rest of the group. You may adjust the amount of time according to how much time you have available and the size of the group.

For example: If you have a 6-person team and have each person in the fishbowl for 20 minutes, the whole session will last two hours. Person A will reflect on themselves for 10 minutes. Then the rest of the team members offer feedback to person A for another 10 minutes. (In this case, each team member could speak to person A for 2 minutes.)

If you will be talking for more than 40 minutes or an hour, establish break times.

1 Introduction

Sitting in a circle with no table between you, present the exercise. This is an opportunity to reflect on your own role in the event that was just completed and to make an assessment of your own performance. Each person has a set amount of time (5 or 10 minutes or whatever amount of time you previously determined) to speak about what they think they could do better next time, places where they could improve, areas that were edgy for them. It's ok for there to be silence sometimes. When their time is up, the rest of the group reflects back both positive feedback and areas upon which to be improved. Ideally every member of the group says something to whomever just spoke.
It is wonderful to make a group agreement to speak from the heart, to say what is really true for you, both about yourself and when offering reflection to your teammates. Go deep. You can be gentle, but the exercise is most powerful when everyone speaks honestly.
To soften the intensity of the exercise, the first feedback can begin with something positive. At the Art Monastery we like to actually say: "Here's the toothless first feedback".
It can also lay a solid foundation at the beginning for the moderator (who should also be expecting to "sit in the fishbowl" at some point) to invite their teammates to offer real feedback, to be honest even if it's scary, and to state that they want to grow and learn. This can be inspiring and other people may join in on that sentiment.

2 First Person Self Reflection

Allowing whomever feels called to go first, set the timer when they start speaking. Everyone gives their full attention to the speaker. Allow the full allotment of time to run regardless if they are speaking or not. It's ok to be silent. Sometimes after a moment of silence, something deeper emerges.

3 Group Reflection for First Person

Once the timer has rung to signal the end of the time for the first person's reflections on him/herself, the rest of the group is invited to offer feedback. The first person to offer feedback should begin with something positive. People can respond to what the person said about themselves or to what other team members reflected. Everyone should have a sense of how much time they have (in the example above, each team member has about 2 minutes).

4 Completion of First Person

When the timer has rung to signal the end of the time for the group's reflections on the performance of the person, the person in the fishbowl can say "Thank you". The group can sit together in silence for a moment to let that pass and then the next person who feels called can begin. Keep going until everyone in the group has sat "in the fishbowl".


At the end of this exercise it is wonderful to do something soothing. Depending on the culture of your group, you could do something like: group massage, group hug, group song, or gratitude circle. A mini-version of gratitude circle is to go around the circle and each person expresses one thing they are grateful for that came out of this exercise.


Trainers for this method can be hired here:

Art Monastery artmonastery.org

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