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The AAR (After Action Review) has become a part of the way that we work in the Constellation. Over the years many of us have evolved and adapted the ‘standard’ approach to the AAR. In this note, I would like to put forward some thoughts on the AAR with a view to a discussion that leads to the ‘Constellation AAR’.

Here are 5 points that help me to think about the AAR, to take part in an AAR and to facilitate an AAR.

  1. The first question that we ask in an AAR is about strengths.
    The start of any reflection on the event should be a review of the strengths that we have seen. After a SALT visit, this seems perfectly natural, but there is good reason to start with this question after any activity.

  2. The second question that we ask in an AAR is about our recent experience.
    The opportunities to learn from the experience of our SALT visit arise in many ways that are not covered through the exploration of the questions ‘What was supposed to happen?’, ‘What actually happened?’ and ‘Why was there a difference?’ We need a more general question that allows us to think more widely.

  3. The third question we ask is about actions.
    ‘What happened at the SALT visit?’ is a different question from ‘What did we learn from the SALT visit?’ The link between the experience and the learning is often not obvious and requires thought and discussion. The third question is, ‘What do we do differently next time?

  4. Shorter lists and more doing
    The output of an AAR is often a long list of actions on a flip chart that is the final task at the end of a long day. Some of us often think that we have done our duty and there the matter can rest. Perhaps the challenge is to define ONE thing that we wish to do differently next time, to commit to do and then to act.

  5. A different name for the AAR?
    This might be too much of a revolution but, here goes….

    In the Constellation, we reflect on our experience in order to learn from our experience.
    We could keep the acronym AAR, but think of it as an After Action Reflection.

    The Constellation has experience and it learns from its experience.

    How about AER for After Experience Reflection?


I realise that the phrase AAR has become part of way of working and our way of thinking and the change to AER may be too difficult to contemplate. But just to let you know, that I think of the AAR as an After Experience Reflection.


You can find more details of the ideas introduced here at:

The page contains a more detailed description of these thoughts, a suggested process for the AAR based on these ideas and an example of an AAR based on them. 

More links

You can find a description of the ‘standard’ approach to the AAR (as well as other learning tools that the Constellation uses) at:

You can find an example AAR that uses the approach described here at:

 The example AAR is taken from a SALT visit that took place at the Global Knowledge Fair held at Chennai, India in November 2012. You can find more details of the Global Learning Festival at:

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Very interesting Phil, the saying "........ think alike" I had a brief discussion similar to this with a colleague. Reflection, Review, Reminisce is needed after each experience / engagement and very impacting if done sooner rather than later after the experience. It is important! It should be a formal part of CLCP training rather than "Oh we do this after the SALT visit." It should be inherent in our 'Way of Working' probably after each exercise by trainers and after the day's programme by all. My experience has been to allocate 10-15 mins to AER but more time might be needed. When we did AER with a French Red Cross activity, the 10 mins allotted time turned out be about 30 mins because the participants wanted more time to discuss the SALT visit and this was only one group's experience. The participants were divided into three groups, the members wanted to share the strengths they observed, to discuss what actually happened and why compared with what was planned. If communities are encouraged to make AER inherent in what they do, it contributes to tracing progress, impact and behavior changes within that community. Documenting AER is important as part of the journey. All of the questions are important but could vary pending the circumstances, let the doers make that choice (^_^). Just my 2 sense.

Thanks Phil. I like AER!

Two questions work for me:

What did go well and why?

What shall we improve and how?


Dear Phil I was thinking of AER and here is my little contribution :-) .  I reflected on the times I did AAR and place myself mentally in that environment and what I realize now is that even though I went through the process of AAR the words Action Review made me had a totally different feeling from the words Experience Reflection.

I agree with your comment saying "we are not the army”, because Action Review made me think of an Action Plan, where you set your plan out and work towards accomplishing it by that certain time.  I felt I looked at the SALT visit /workshop as a target I had ACCOMPLISHED (yeah me) and now I’m ticking off some questions. Even though this feeling is way down and I now realize it, that feeling was there.

But when I think of words After Experience Reflection I get a totally different mindset I feel I haven’t lost the connection of that experience but continuing to be in the moment of the experience and I want to reflect more on what transpired.

I don’t think changing AAR to AER is too much of a revolution or too difficult to contemplate, but what I do know is that you opened my eyes and WOT and even if it don’t change, I will from now on continue to have my AER. :-)

Well Tricia, my understanding is that AAR was derived from military operations and the idea is working but how you captured (not military like (^_^)) the thoughts of Phil is trully inspiring. Thanks for your heart-felt sharing on this topic.

Thank you all for raising the topic and for the contributions! I would like to submit to you some statements/questions coming into my (still newcomer) mind; getting a clear picture of the WHY and WHAT is important for me before going deeper and more concretely into the HOW…

The WHY? To develop the Constellation as a wise learning organisation feeding its process and approach so that both stay alive, meaningful, relevant; this being done by and shared with all facilitators so that there is always a common understanding and appropriation of the practices;

The WHAT?  Learning together from the experience of each of us;

The HOW? AAR or AER; questions can be formulated as How to integrate the experience of each facilitator/team into a common, shared, rich, diverse and opened set of practices? How to capture the wisdom of the facilitators/teams and integrate them into some collective knowledge so that further facilitators/teams have access to it and are inspired in their own practices?

Does this make sense to you?

Thanks :-)

Great question Phil as facilitators we sometimes need to be flexible and evolve as we learn new ways of from local action  and keep the inspiration flow

personally AFTER EXPERINCE REFLECTION sounds cool ,we  reflect what we have experienced  in the Salt visit 

as for the strategic questions in the Salt visit we can frame them from the THE SALT

in addiction to the juice questions that we have used in the past

---how did we stimulate questions.....strengths ?

---how did we appreciate...? learnt

.....Team how did we behave as team? ,stories of transfer we heard

we have to evolve

my personal thoughts


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