Applying the After Action Review (AAR) method to undergraduate medical curriculum development

Barbara Jennings, Trevor Killeen, Susan Miles

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: In 2011, we completed a curriculum redesign for our student selected components (SSC), and subsequently implemented significant changes to studentchoice, tutoring, and assessment. After Action Review (AAR) is a reflective and structured debriefing method that is used in the military; and it has been adapted for use in emergency medicine and medical simulation. By comparing expectations of a scenario with subsequent experiences after the event, it is possible to identify operational problems and communication gaps. We used a modified AAR to gather longitudinal feedback from the first cohort to experience our revised, 4-year, longitudinal SSC curriculum.

Method: 9 students engaged in a three hour session that was facilitated by 2 faculty members. Short written comments were collected from each student and coded to describe (1) initial expectations and (2) actual experiences of the domains of the curriculum, e.g. student-selection; career planning; tutor support; formative and summative assessment; documentation; and evidence-based-medicine (EBM). Comments were paired for each individual but collected anonymously.

Results: All students provided detailed comments about their expectations and experiences for most domains. The comments about expectations were compared with actual experiences and categorised as negative (if expectations were not met); positive (if experiences were met or better than expected); or mixed (if expectations had been partially met). Paired responses indicated that reflections were domain-specific, i.e. individual students reported some positive experiences and some negative experiences across the domains. The learning gain for EBM was a particular strength, whereas documentation was noted as an area for attention. Data from the study were disseminated to academic leads to use in further curriculum development. The structured AAR debriefing provided data to support quality improvement and to manage student expectations as appropriate. This AAR was designed to include a small voluntary cross-section of the student cohort; limiting the generalisability of initial conclusions.

Conclusion: The efficient AAR method provided rich, qualitative data that complemented our annual student evaluations of teaching. This method allowed a thorough debriefing between faculty and medical students at the end of a significant redesign of the SSC curriculum at NMS.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAMEE International Conference - Basel, Switzerland
Duration: 26 Aug 201829 Aug 2018


ConferenceAMEE International Conference


  • Medical Education
  • Evaluation
  • After Action Review
  • Student Selected Components

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