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The Power of Action Learning

The Power of Action Learning

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Published by lucidleagueltd
Effective learning needs to meet the needs of individuals. This is widely accepted. Really effective learning is driven by the individual. When individuals have an element of control over the learning experience, the learning outcomes become more potent. Peer-to-peer learning is also very powerful. This is also widely accepted. Combining a focus on individual needs with support from co-learners can lead to mutually beneficial, lasting benefits. Action learning helps individuals to identify their own challenges draws on the ideas and experience of others to create solutions to these challenges. It is a valuable method of learning which benefits individuals, teams and entire organizations.
Effective learning needs to meet the needs of individuals. This is widely accepted. Really effective learning is driven by the individual. When individuals have an element of control over the learning experience, the learning outcomes become more potent. Peer-to-peer learning is also very powerful. This is also widely accepted. Combining a focus on individual needs with support from co-learners can lead to mutually beneficial, lasting benefits. Action learning helps individuals to identify their own challenges draws on the ideas and experience of others to create solutions to these challenges. It is a valuable method of learning which benefits individuals, teams and entire organizations.

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Published by: lucidleagueltd on Oct 06, 2008
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The Power of Action Learning
Effective learning needs to meet the needs of individuals. This is widely accepted. Reallyeffective learning is driven by the individual. When individuals have an element of controlover the learning experience, the learning outcomes become more potent. Peer-to-peerlearning is also very powerful. This is also widely accepted. Combining a focus on individualneeds with support from co-learners can lead to mutually beneficial, lasting benefits. Actionlearning helps individuals to identify their own challenges draws on the ideas and experienceof others to create solutions to these challenges. It is a valuable method of learning whichbenefits individuals, teams and entire organizations.
What is action learning?
Action learning is a dynamic process that simply put, combines action and learning. Itinvolves a small group of people, known as an action learning ‘set,' working together on realproblems, taking action, learning how to overcome their challenges and learning aboutthemselves. Action learning is very different from traditional training methods which focuson the presentation of knowledge and skills. It's not like a formal meeting or seminar. Nor isit like counseling or therapy. Action learning does not revolve around a “knowledge expert”.Everyone, including the facilitator, is a co-learner. Participants have equal opportunity totackle their own challenge. These challenges may be ones that others in the set share, butthey don't have to be. Others in the set help the individual to explore the challenge and planwhat to do about it. It is important that participants come together voluntarily. Often theyare invited by their organization, but they need to want to take part rather than feel theyhave to. A typical set contains between four and eight people. One of these people is thefacilitator. The role of the facilitator is described in more detail in the next section.Participants take turns to present their challenge to other members of the set. Others askquestions to help define the challenge more clearly. These questions build group dialogueand cohesiveness and generate innovative and creative thinking. The group reflects togetheron the issue rather than leaping to conclusions. The simple rules of action learningencourage participants to think critically and work collaboratively. An additional benefit of the process is that it helps develop team working and leadership skills.Action learning can help solve dilemmas of all sizes. It can be particularly useful whenaddressing a complex problem which the individual finds difficult to solve using traditionalmethods. The set provides space and support for individuals to resolve problems or issues.Feelings can be expressed and explored. This helps the individual to take responsibility,decide a course of action, and move on. A typical session lasts between a couple of hours orhalf a day. Conclusions do not have to be reached during one session. Often participants will
 
spend time between sessions exploring options, reading and engaging in other learning anddiscussion. They may also communicate with others in the set before meeting up againformally.Practical learning occurs once action is taken. Following the exploration and discussion, it isimportant that the individual identifies actions that they can take in the workplace to helpprogress, or even to resolve the original challenge. 
The role of the facilitator
The facilitator plays a critical role in action learning. The facilitator may be an externalconsultant or an experienced member of an action learning set. Because of the non-hierarchical nature of action learning, it is important that the facilitator does not dictatewhat happens or try to control the group. A good action learning facilitator is a role model,helping other participants to agree ground rules and exemplifying these. The facilitator doesthe same things as other participants - asks questions, contributes ideas and providesfeedback - but may do so less than others because of his or her additional responsibility.
A good facilitator will:
Begin by clarifying with the group what is to be discussed during the session Help build asafe environment of openness, trust and mutual respect Clarify what processes the set isemploying, and the implications of these processes Help others reflect on both what theyare learning and how they are solving problems Explore what assumptions may be shapingparticipants' beliefs and actions Acknowledge the part played by feelings in the discussionHelp the team focus on what they are achieving and what they are finding difficultEncourage a measured, thoughtful pace by summarizing and making sure questions areasked one at a time Ensure that everyone in the set is participating and if not, explore whynot Only ever interrupt if it another individual's contribution is inappropriate Allow time forreflection Ask the set to evaluate the process by considering their experiences and theimpact of others' contributions Ensure that an issue is resolved before moving on Take notesand bring these to any future sessions.
The benefits of action learning
Action learning can bring real benefits to individuals, teams and organizations. Actionlearning:Enhances team working and collaboration skillsHelps participants to build mutually beneficial and mutually respectful relationships withcolleagues Develops problem-solving and decision-making skills Helps participants to relateresearch, theory and management concepts to real-life organizational challenges Develops

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