Action Learning - Explained
What is Action Learning?
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What is Action Learning?
Action learning, a theory officially introduced by Reg Revans, is a process of learning by doing to bring about organizational change. Thought, it is an accepted approach to individual and organizational development.
Reg Revans described Action Learning with the formula
L = P + Q,
where Learning (L) occurs through Programmed knowledge (P) and insightful Questioning (Q)
How is Action Learning Carried Out?
Action learning generally includes the following elements:
- Experiential learning.
- Creative complex problem solving.
- Acquiring relevant knowledge.
- Co-learning group support.
Action learning programs involve small groups that meet regularly to take action on critical, real problems while explicitly seeking learning from having taken that action.
Usually, the learning aspect is facilitated by a learning coach who is skilled in using the collective experience of group members to create learning opportunities.
What are the Characteristics of Action Learning?
The following are characteristics of action learning:
- An emphasis on learning by doing.
- Conducted in teams.
- Addressing company / organizational issues.
- With participants placed into problem-solving roles.
- Where team decisions are required.
- Formalized into presentations.
Steps in Action Learning. Process
- Clarify the objective of the Action Learning group. Presentation of the problem or the task to the group. A group may handle one or many problems.
- Group formation. The group can consist of volunteers or appointed people, and can work on a single organizational problem or each other's department's problems. Convene a cross-section of people with a complementary mix of skills and expertise to participate in the Action Learning group. Action Learning groups may meet for one time or several times. Depending on the complexity of the problem and the time available for its resolution.
- Analyze the issue(s) and identify actions for resolving them.
- The problem owner presents the problem briefly to the group. He can remain involved as a member of the group, or withdraw, and await the group's recommendations.
- Reframe the problem. After a series of questions, the group, often with the guidance of the Action Learning consultant, will reach a consensus on the most critical and important problem the group should work on. The group should establish the crux of the problem, which might differ from the original presenting problem.
- Determine goals. Once the key problem or issue has been identified, the group seeks consensus for the goal. The achievement of the goal would solve the restated problem for the long-term with positive rather than negative consequences on the individual, team, or organization.
- Develop action strategies. Much of the time and energy of the group will be spent on identifying, and pilot testing, of possible action strategies. Like the preceding stages of Action Learning, strategies are developed via reflective inquiry and dialogue.
- Take action. Between Action Learning sessions, the group as a whole and individual members collect information, they identify the support status, and they implement the strategies developed and agreed to by the group.
- Repeat the cycle of action and learning until the problem is resolved or new directions are determined.
Capturing learning. Throughout and at any point during the sessions, the Action Learning consultant may intervene. He can ask questions to the group members, which will enable them to:
- Clarify the problem.
- Find ways to improve their performance as a group.
- Identify how their learning can be applied to develop themselves, the team, and the organization.
- After a period of time, reconvene the group to discuss progress, lessons learned, and next steps. Document the learning process for future reference. Record lessons learned after each phase of learning.