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By Dr. Harry Tennant

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The after-action review

The U.S. Army has a valuable tool for improving performance in complex environments: the after action review (AAR).

AARs are conducted in an atmosphere of openness and honesty to discuss what actually happened and how it might be improved next time. The point of the AAR is to identify strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of the soldiers and leaders who were there. The feedback compares the actual outcome with the intended outcome.

After-action reviews (from A Leader's Guide to After-Action Reviews):

  • Are conducted immediately after each event
  • Focus on intended objectives
  • Focus on soldier, leader and unit performance
  • Involve all participants in the discussion
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Are related to specific standards
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses
  • Link performance to subsequent training

The general format of after-action reviews is to answer the following:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What happened?
  • Why it happened and how to improve?

Why AARs are valuable

Military events are complex, meaning that they typically involve dealing in real time with unexpected events. Complex events cannot be pre-scripted before the fact. They depend upon everyone understanding how to improvise as situations arise yet still accomplish the mission. AARs are a technique for learning from reflection.

How we use AARs at Edclick

When we at Edclick have a major event such as attending a tradeshow, we conduct an AAR afterward. It might consist of a few minutes of discussion or an email discussion addressing the questions above. It's easy, it's useful review, and it leads to better performance next time.

How AARs can be used in education

Do lesson plans always go as planned? Of course not. A few minutes reflection shortly after class can be of immense help in improving teaching, classroom management, school discipline and other events around the school. Reflection on intent and results is the basis of RtI (Response to Intervention). It is a key to continuous improvement.

Posted at 12:00 AM Keywords: continuous improvement , after-action review 2 Comments

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