The Comparative Effectiveness of After-Action Review in Co-located and Distributed Team Training Environments



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The team-training literature provides favorable support for the after-action review (AAR)?s ability to improve cognitive, skill, and attitudinal outcomes in co-located and distributed environments. However, the comparative effectiveness of co-located and distributed AARs is unknown. Thus, the objective of the present study was to investigate the comparative effectiveness of co-located and distributed AARs. The present study examined the AAR?s effect on performance, declarative knowledge, team-efficacy, team voice, team cohesion, and team-level reactions. Data were obtained from 492 undergraduate students (47.66% female) assigned to 123 4-person teams who participated in a team training protocol using a 3 (type of AAR review: non-AAR versus subjective AAR versus objective AAR) x 2 (geographic dispersion: co-located and distributed training environments) x 3 (sessions) repeated measures design.

The results indicate that AAR teams had significantly higher performance scores than the non-AAR teams. In addition, the AAR teams had higher perceptions of team-efficacy and higher levels of team cohesion than the non-AAR teams. With the exception of team-level reactions, there were no other significant differences between the distributed AAR and co-located AAR conditions. Similarly, there were no significant differences across any of the outcome variables between the objective and subjective AAR conditions, indicating that the type of AAR did not impact the results of the training.

The findings of the present study highlight several practical and scientific implications that should be considered regarding AAR training. Primarily, regardless of the training environment or type of AAR, AAR training remains an effective intervention at increasing performance and attitudinal-based outcomes. In addition, the results suggest that the use of distributed AARs does not engender the proposed process losses that were hypothesized. Thus, the use of this training to reduce administrative costs may be a viable option for geographically dispersed organizations. Finally, practitioners should evaluate the extent to which increasing the amount of technology to allow for a more objective performance review, is providing the intended benefit to the trainees. The empirical research has consistently demonstrated that the use of objective review systems provides little to no benefit to the trainees. Future research is needed to determine the generalizability of these findings to other tasks, domains, team types, and levels of expertise.