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Facilitated professional development in groups

Learning with and from colleagues

Action Learning. Actionlearningexplained

What is action learning?

Action Learning is a peer group coaching process, originally developed by Reg Revans. It is a very effective way for an individual and/or organisations to:

‘attack real problems, preferably ill-defined, or fertile opportunities, howsoever remote’.*

Revans felt strongly that teaching theory was not enough, it was how it was put into practice that mattered. He emphasised the importance of the ‘questioning insight’ of others to do this successfully:
L (Action Learning) = P (Programmed knowledge) + Q (Questioning insight)

Individual 🔄 Group

Each member has opportunities to present what they are working on and benefit from the insight of the other members. In addition, it is not just the 'presenter' who benefits, the other 'participants' learn as much about the action learning process and often take away valuable insights which help them with their own projects.

Action Learning. Actionlearningset

What happens in an action learning set?

The heart of action learning is the ‘set’ (i.e. group) of ‘participants’ who take it in turns to present a problem. The other group members then help the ‘presenter’ to further their thinking with selfless and insightful questioning. Through this process the group members:

‘Explore what they cannot see around them as well as what they imagine they can, and in this vital mapping of their own ignorance they are encouraged by their colleagues in the set.

The essence of action learning is to pose increasingly insightful questions from an origin of ignorance, risk and confusion.'*

Each presenter then sets their own goals to work on before they next present. The individual retains ownership and responsibility for the problem and their actions to address it. The facilitator makes sure that the presenter is getting what (s)he wants from the group, keeps the ‘set’ on task, on time and to agreed rules such as confidentiality. Sets meet for an agreed period, often 9 to 12 months. At the end the group might decide to continue meeting without a facilitator.

*Revans, Reg: ‘ABC of Action Learning’ (2011)

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