What is Action Learning?
Action Learning is one of a range of personal development tools which can be used to learn new ways of working, share experiences and help with problem solving.
Action Learning consists of a group of people meeting together on a regular basis to discuss work-related issues or to develop skills in an area of common interest. They give individuals time to explore issues that they need to resolve in an environment which is empowering and which helps the individual to find a solution – rather than be told what to do. The group develop skills in listening, reflecting back what they have heard, demonstrating empathy, questioning to help the presenter to understand the issue more fully and providing feedback.
During Action Learning participants are able to raise real life problems, difficult questions, discuss sensitive issues and share their learning in a supportive environment, secure in the knowledge that what they say remains confidential to the group. The group is usually supported by a facilitator and members are strongly encouraged to commit to attend all meetings.
How does Action Learning work?
- “Open” sessions where individual members bid to discuss issues of concern to them. The focus is on using questioning from other members to help the individual understand the issue and to identify an action plan for handling it, rather than providing direct advice or sharing experiences.
- “Planned” sessions where the topic is agreed in advance. This model may be helpful where an Action Learning Set is supporting members who are all developing the same set of skills at the same time, and where members will benefit from brainstorming and sharing experiences of implementing new skills.
- “Combined” approach where the meeting is divided between “planned” and ”open” sessions, allowing both the structure of a planned approach with the opportunity for individuals to raise issues of current concern as well.
How does Action Learning differ from more traditional learning?
- There is a shared commitment to real action and change
- The group mentor each other – learning with and through each other, questioning and challenging
- The group need to be positive and open-minded about the real issues/problems being discussed and possible solutions.