After-Action Review in Education

After-Action Review in Education

After-Action Review is a method of learning from an experience that was originally developed by the military. The idea is that following a conflict, mission, or any other issue the individuals involved go through a debriefing process. In this process the cooperating individuals discuss what happened, how it happened, and how it can be better implemented in similar scenarios.

I was first introduced to this concept in Michael Hyatt’s new book, “Your Best Year Ever”, which is a fantastic book for educators and anyone wanting to get the most out of the year ahead.

As I was reading the section on how to implement the After-Action Review method into my own personal life, I knew it could also be applied to my career in education. I started to think about how many times I have created a lesson that I thought was going to spark the interest of students, ignite the learning process, and impact their lives. When in reality, that wasn’t the case, leading to blank stares from my students. Following these classroom failures my response is usually something like "Great job me, umm, class maybe we should take a 5 minute brain break."
We have all been there, where in the design process, we get excited about implementing a new lesson and it tanks dramatically to the point where we just want to disappear for the remainder of the school day.  However, this is the moment of opportunity for growth.  No matter how tough it seems to learn from our so called failure, the After-Action Review can be used to help us gain insight on why things didn't work out as planned.

Using the After Action Review process may look something like this:

     1. State what you wanted to happen

I wanted my students to engage in a debate about the formation of a new government after the American Revolution. I wanted my students to apply previous concepts of government discussed in early units of study and research the best way to convey their messages to the class in meaningful dialogue while respecting the opinions of their classmates.


     2. Acknowledge what actually happened

Some students were completely disengaged with the lesson and honestly did not even want to participate. A few students asked, “Is this for a grade?” so they could gauge how much effort they needed to put into the assignment.

Others who were engaged did not use reasoned judgement in formulating their opinions, missing the factual debate, which led to students yelling across the room and disregarding all modes of public discourse and respect for each other.


     3. Learn from the experience

This lesson did not work out as planned, but there are a few things I can learn from this experience. I should have laid the foundation for a debate explaining the importance of respecting the opinions of each other while trying to find common ground.

Some students did not apply the previous concepts so it is important to revisit those concepts before implementing a lesson like this. Tomorrow, I will have to explain this in detail to them and open up for a class discussion on how to make this type of lesson work.


     4. Adjust your behavior

Take all the information from the previous step and apply it to your lesson. Break it down into simple steps. Maybe use technology to create an online discussion using Google Classroom, Canvas, or Showbie to help them organize and express their ideas before voicing them. This will also give me the ability to facilitate and monitor the discussion.  

Many teachers experience issues like this in the classroom, unless you were simply born with the ability to brilliantly instruct, engage, and ignite the learning process. The best part about this is that most teachers already use the After-Action Review subconsciously and if not, it is easy to start implementing a self reflection process to help improving your craft of teaching.

Please comment below, let me know if you think the After-Action Review is something you could use in your own teaching.

Free After-Action Review PDF Download

Use the After Action Review method to grow as an instructor and gain more insight in your classroom with this PDF Download. 

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