Debriefs: Teams learning from doing in context

Joseph A. Allen, Roni Reiter-Palmon, John Crowe, Cliff Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Debriefs are a type of work meeting in which teams discuss, interpret, and learn from recent events during which they collaborated. In a variety of forms, debriefs are found across a wide range of organizational types and settings. Well-conducted debriefs can improve team effectiveness by 25% across a variety of organizations and settings. For example, the U.S. military adopted debriefs decades ago to promote learning and performance across the various services. Subsequently, debriefs have been introduced in the medical field, the fire service, aviation, education, and in a variety of organizational training and simulation environments. After a discussion of various purposes for which debriefs have been used, we proceed with a historical review of development of the concepts and use in industries and contexts. We then review the psychological factors relevant to debrief effectiveness and the outcomes for individuals, teams, and organizations that deploy debriefs. Future directions of particular interest to team researchers across a variety of psychological disciplines are presented along with a review of how best to implement debriefs from a practical perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-516
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2018


  • After-action reviews
  • Debriefs
  • Huddles
  • Sensemaking
  • Team learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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