After Action Review

Duration: 30 min - 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Hard
Group Size: < 50
Level of interaction: High
Multilanguage fit: No
Preparation Time: Medium
Purpose: Knowledge Construction
Type of Online Events: Hackaton, Webinar, Workshop

Review and reflect for future learning

After Action Review is a method that supports participatory reflection and review of completed actions to improve performance and solutions in the future. Guided by a facilitator, participants jointly review what happened in a given situation, compare it to what was supposed to happen, discuss why it occurred as it did, and identify insights and learning for the future.

Use this method to:

  • Induce accurate reflection on the learning process.
  • Generate objective evaluations free from personal criticism.
  • Reformulate experience to give a clear and cohesive picture and reiterate lessons learned.
  • Decide on actions that will apply the learning in the near future.

Steps to apply this method:


  1. Define the objective of this learning activity, the topic, and the action to be reviewed.
  2. Define the number of participants required to take part in the session. 
    • Evaluate whether the number of participants is manageable by one facilitator (variation 1) or more facilitators (variation 2).
  3. Define the tool that you will use and familiarize yourself with its functionalities.
    • Design and prepare the online space for the learning activity. If more facilitators join the session, create breakout rooms.
  4. Decide the procedure of the learning activity:
    Variation 1: Participants work jointly with the facilitator.
    Variation 2: Participants are divided into groups according to the number of participants and available facilitators. Parallel sessions are held.


  1. Start the learning activity: 
    • If variation 1: go to step 8.
    • If variation 2: Divide groups according to the number of participants and available facilitators, and distribute them into breaking rooms.
  2. Present the questions one at a time in the most logical sequence, allowing enough time for reflection. 
    • Document all key points. If possible make them available for everyone in your group to see while holding the session. For example, you can use a whiteboard, or share your screen while writing on a document or a slide. 
  3. Encourage participants to share collaborative reflections.
    First question: what was supposed to happen? 
    • The first question creates a common understanding of the goals of the learning activity being reviewed.
    Second Question: what actually happened?
    • The second question deals with the actual results and outcomes of the activities.
    Third question: Why was there a difference?
    • The third question unearths the causes of the end result in order to understand the consequences of actions, decisions, and influential factors.
    Fourth question: What was learned from this?
    • The fourth question elicits ideas and insights on what to do next. This will generate a series of action items that would lead to more positive results in the future and reinforce change.
  4. Debrief and invite comments or questions to evaluate participants’ learning (variation 1) or open a final discussion with all participants (variation 2).
    • For both variations, share the recorded notes with your participants after the session for future reference.

Try applying this method immediately after the learning activity or project has occurred to ensure that the experience is fresh in participants’ memories.
When facing hesitant reactions from participants, try asking everyone to individually express both a positive and negative thought in writing and instruct participants to post their insights for everyone to discuss later in the session.

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