At TASCHA, as part of our larger goal to improve organizational learning, we’re experimenting with using After Action Reviews (AAR) at the conclusion of an event or a phase of a project. AARs provide a structured format for reflection in order to learn from the experience. Additionally, since not everyone at TASCHA works on the same projects, it’s also an opportunity to share our experiences with the larger team.
Below is a abbreviated version of the AAR for the March Mobile Information Literacy (MIL) Training of Trainers in Nakuru, Kenya for 20 librarians done in collaboration with EIFL and the Kenya National Library Service (KNLS). The training will eventually cascade down to the library users of the 62 KNLS branches through leadership and modifications by KNLS trainers. Mobile Information Literacy curriculum teaches digital, internet, and information skills needed for people who primarily or exclusively access the Internet with smartphones.
- Group activities and peer-to-peer learning
- Hands-on exploring and working out problems with their groups not only energized participants but also gave them important time to explore with their phones in a safe, supportive environment.
- Peer help desk
- About ¾ through the training, we had each participant write down two problems they were having with their phone on post-its and put them on the wall. Everyone then looked at the post-its to find a problem they could solve. People were really engaged with this activity and offered diverse solutions. It not only helped people get their problems solved but it demonstrated that there was a lot of internal group knowledge – no interventions from the instructor required.
- In-training reflections
- Since this was a train-the-trainers event, at various points during the training, we “pulled back the curtain” and explained the rationale for choosing different training approaches. It worked well to sneak a few mini-facilitation skill lessons into the MIL training itself.
What didn’t work?
- Training length
- We originally planned for a total of five full days of training. The first two days were EIFL’s training skills, then two days of MIL, and then the last day practice teaching MIL. About mid-week, we realized this was simply too much content– even with plenty of group activities. Working together, EIFL and TASCHA restructured some content and made the days shorter. We still covered the main content pieces, but it gave participants more time to recharge. Instead of sitting in the training room, participants spent more time together– they went for walks, shared ideas, socialized, or spent some time alone.
What would you do differently next time?
- Reduce the overall training time
- There’s an urge to fill every moment with content, but unstructured time is important too.
- Make sure that instructions for group activities explicitly lay out each step
- We thought our instructions were clear! It turns out they weren’t. This led to some confusion at the beginning of some activities. Other times, a group would misunderstand an instruction and completed the activity differently than intended. Next time, we’ll write out more of the steps and have a third-party proofread.
We found the AAR helpful for the MIL training because it set time aside to reflect on the event. While teaching, our heads were swirling with thoughts about what was going well and what needed to be changed, and we did our best to scribble notes to ourselves as we went. Now we have these thoughts written down, in a much more organized manner, so that we can use them in the next phase of the project.