What is Action Learning?

Action Learning is not new – it has been around for over 50 years and has been used very successfully as a way of bringing people together to work in small groups called ‘Sets’. They work on what Reg Revans (the creator of Action Learning) calls ‘real people, real issues, real time’. What this means, is that people in Sets work on important individual or organisational issues to help them resolve problems, learn and move on.

Essentially action learning is a very simple but powerful process through which people:

  • Learn with ‘comrades in adversity’ (people in the same boat!)
  • Learn their way through to taking effective action and observing consequences.
  • Learn with and from other people in the Set.
  • Learn how to learn.
  • Learn how to reflect upon own & other’s behaviours and actions.
  • Learn to ask incisive questions and listen deeply to the answers.


When Action Learning is used

  • In what are regarded as complex situations.
  • When faced with a new problem which may not have been encountered before.
  • When faced with a long-standing problem that has not yet been solved.
  • When there is dissatisfaction with the current solution to a problem.


How Action Learning Sets work

  • Sets are made up of participants who are committed to supporting, and offering positive support and criticism where appropriate.
  • Set meetings last about 2. 5 hours.
  • Clear and effective ground rules are developed to help the Set operate effectively.
  • Time is shared between members – sometimes equally and at others one person may have a longer time to explore issues.
  • People take turns to present issues to the Set. Questions are asked and answers listened to.
  • Set members do not give advice, match experiences or tell anecdotes.
  • Set members help the presenter to review their options and then decide on actions to take. In future Set meetings, the presenter reports back on the process and actions taken.
  • People learn as much from others as they do from their own situation.
  • Projects are real – based on ‘real people, real problems, real time ‘.


What skills are gained through Action Learning?

  • listening and attending;
  • reflecting and questioning;
  • assertion;
  • management of emotions;
  • building empathy;
  • giving and receiving feedback;
  • getting to the point quickly in an emotionally intelligent way;
  • self-confidence.


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