Tips for action learning

What is action learning?
Action Learning is a process for bringing together a group of people with varied levels of skills and experience to analyze an actual work problem and develop an action plan. The group continues to meet as actions are implemented, learning from the implementation and making mid-course corrections. Action Learning is a form of learning by doing.

Action Learning (AL) involves working on real problems, focusing on learning and actually implementing solutions. It is a form of learning by doing. Pioneered by Professor Reg Revans and developed worldwide over the last 50 years, it provides a well-tried method of accelerating learning which enables people to handle difficult situations more effectively.

AL is a process of inquiry, beginning with the experience of not knowing 'what to do next', and finding that answers are not available through current expertise. When expertise fails to provide an answer, collaborative inquiry with fellow learners who are undergoing the same questioning experience is always available.

To be effective, this partnership in learning needs to be both supportive and at the same time challenging, deeply caring yet questioning. Such partnerships actually create themselves when different people with different ideas engage whole-heartedly with each other to resolve each others' problems.

This is a profound shift: from dependence on available expertise and pride in the steady accumulation of knowledge to learning with and from fellow learners, honestly disclosing doubts and admitting ignorance.

AL is based on a radical concept: L = P + Q. Learning requires Programmed knowledge (routine knowledge in use) and Questioning insight. The process integrates research on what is obscure with action to resolve a problem, and personal and communal reflection.

The process takes place initially in small groups, called 'Sets', but is free to find other opportunities for furthering inquiry. Each question has possible answers which are tested in action.

Those taking part in this process find that they have opened up far more than a useful technique of investigation; they have found a new way of life where being responsible for one's own learning is a continuing process of personal development.

Summary of how to use it:
Tip 01:
Clarify the objective of the Action Learning group.
Tip 02:
Convene a cross-section of people with a complementary mix of skills and expertise to participate in the Action Learning group.
Tip 03:
Hold initial meetings to analyze the issues and identify actions for resolving them.
Tip 04:
Return the group to the work place to take action.
Tip 05:
Use subgroups to work on specific aspects of the problem if necessary.
Tip 06:
After a period of time, reconvene the group to discuss progress, lessons learned, and next steps.
Tip 07:
Repeat the cycle of action and learning until the problem is resolved or new directions are determined.
Tip 08:
Document the learning process for future reference. Record lessons learned after each phase of learning.

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