What is Action Learning? An introduction!



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I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand
(Confucius)

What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing
(Aristotle)

The concept of action learning was structurally applied in education by Reg Revans as early as in 1940s. The contemporary action learning guru, Revans has never provided a single and comprehensive statement of action learning and at different times emphasized one aspect or omitted another (Mumford, 1995). He preferred to describe action learning as what it is not.

(Pedler, 1991) came up with the definition for Action learning as an approach to the development of people in organizations which takes the task as the vehicle for learning. It is based on the premise that there is no learning without action and no sober and deliberate action without learning. The method has three main components—people, who accept the responsibility for taking action on a particular issue; problems, or the tasks that people set themselves; and a set of six or so colleagues who support and challenge each other to make progress on problems.

(Lex Dilworth, 1995) has called action learning “the DNA of a learning organization” since action learning both enables and forces organizations to continuously learn on an organization-wide basis and thereby be better able to adapt to the continuously changing environment.

(Marquardt, 1999) described, action learning as both a dynamic process and a powerful program. It involves a small group of people solving real problems, while at the same time focusing on what they are learning and how their learning can benefit each group member, the group itself, and the organization as a whole.

All the major contributors of action learning emphasised that it is the ‘action’ which is the core of this learning methodology. It is clear enough from various definitions that the action learning methodology is not only a methodology but also a process which helps the individuals, teams and organizations to make themselves self-dependent in solving the problems. It also creates an environment where they progressively grow while learning from their activities at the same time.

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