No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Accrediting your training – an action learning approach


As a training provider, how can you persuade potential clients of the value of your programmes? If you run training in your company, how can employees be sure that the courses they attend will have been worthwhile?

TrainingZONE has been examining the issue of how trainers can provide increased value to their clients for some time now, and we've been highlighting some useful ways you can do this - including EvaluationZone, which among other things looks at how integrating clear objectives into your programmes from the start can have a powerful influence on the value you give to clients.

Many trainers and companies running their own programmes recognise the importance of securing outside endorsement for what they do - it can set their programmes apart from the rest. But gaining this endorsement can be tricky. TrainingZONE's CPD Business School could provide the answer.

Launched last year to offer individuals a brand new route to qualification, the CPD Business School was set up to offer students the opportunity to study via the Action Learning route without having to step into the classroom through a distance learning route. The School uses technology to offer students - or associates, as they're known - online campuses and access to an online library to download documents to support their studies.

How does this relate to training providers own programmes? Well, CPD Business School is now able to offer a route to accrediting training programmes through the International Management Centres Association.


We spoke to Dr Richard Hale, Director of Action Learning Forums, IMCA to find out exactly how.

Firstly though, what is Action Learning?

Action Learning is all to do with learning through real-life issues in the workplace. Through a series of study tasks - known as Action Learning Questions - learners develop their knowledge and work on understanding how to solve problems within their own jobs. They can access a huge body of knowledge, both written and live - and network with people with similar issues worldwide. As Dr Richard Hale says, "They have to take the blinkers off".

He adds: "The benefits of Action Learning programmes are that they have direct relevance to an individual's work. What normally happens is that a college or university syllabus is created by someone, taught by someone else and then it is hoped that students will find the course to be relevant. Often the sponsoring organisation's role is marginalised. With Action Learning Questions, you design your own syllabus or select questions from a bank. You address what you need to learn when it becomes relevant based on the demands of your job and career. Action Learning is rigorous - it's not an easy route. It's actually harder because you have to take action and operationalise your knowledge."

As an approach, the Action Learning Forum (group of learners) is geared around supporting organisations and the corporate agenda, starting with the business problem. The learner needs to take action, compare, contrast and investigate how others are dealing with these problems. Theory follows action rather than the other way around.

CPD Business School is a member of the International Management Centres Association (IMCA), which is the professional association for Action Learning. IMCA has been pioneering work in this field since it was founded in the 1960s. Professor Reg Revans, the founding father of Action Learning, was the first President of IMCA.

Training providers - a case study

Training providers Clearworth was running 'the Medal Programme' for senior managers at pharmaceutical company Pfizer. This used a blended learning approach including classroom training, reading and workshops. Clearworth were looking for accreditation for their programmes and had tried approaching traditional business schools, but selected the CPD Business School route because of its flexibility and willingness to work with the Clearworth model and the client's agenda.

With Pfizer, key stakeholders are involved. Managers consult with their bosses and talk to directors to sponsor specific Action Learning Questions. As people move on between departments, word gets out that the Clearworth Masters programme is an interesting thing to be doing.

Dr Richard Hale says: "The CPD Business School is flexible enough to say what you have is already a good programme, but we'll tighten it up. Clearworth were already doing good things with their programmes but they weren't pushing people into action. It was quite easy for participants to debate issues, but fail to change their behaviour afterwards. Accreditation has changed the way they're doing their programme - the focus is now clearly on the participants having to action their learning."

Training providers can get involved with the CPD Business School in two ways:

  • As with the Clearworth example, CPD Business School provides a straightforward, valuable route for training providers looking to get their programmes accredited.

  • For consultants, coaches and mentors, a special forum has been established.

The CPD Business School route to accreditation has particular benefits for trainers and consultancies. This type of accreditation makes it possible to expand the business through delivery of ongoing development programmes, working closely with clients over a period of years. It's also an opportunity to add value for existing clients and to make your programmes distinctive and different.

Dr Richard Hale answers some common questions about the accreditation scheme below:

I'm a training provider considering introducing Action Learning into my programmes. What sort of clients are most likely to be interested in the Action Learning route?

They need to be forward-thinking, open-minded, and ideally tech-literate. It takes a particular type of learner in this process - some unlearning about learning is needed. Professional and technical specialists used to knowledge-led training may have problems initially. When identifying clients that are likely to be interested in this approach, it's best to go with your instincts. It's likely to be the more progressive organisations in your client base, and it's important to get stakeholders around the table to establish their key priorities, then explain how these can be linked directly to programmes like these. These days, there's a definite move towards organisations creating their own knowledge through the challenges they face.

The business agenda is what's important for these types of programmes. Because the programmes can lead to a Certificate, Diploma, Masters or Doctorate, people assume they're academic and don't take a practical approach. I strongly believe management is a practical process which over the years has fallen into the trap of trying to fit into academic disciplines.

I'm a training provider - how do I go about getting my courses accredited?

A representative from the CPD Business School would come and talk about your existing programmes or planned programmes. We'll look at a number of issues, such as the qualification levels of the people involved in your programmes, their prior experience, and will undertake some credit-mapping. The process will take 1-2 days, during which we'll spend time within your company/consultancy, prepare a report of what's possible and viable and will look at provision for resourcing faculty. There'll be a charge of £2-3,000 to cover costs at this stage.

Do I have to continue at this point?

No, you're not committed at this stage. We're not in the business of rubber-stamping based on a discussion, we have absolute commitment to action learning and supporting serious players who are interested in focussing on real learning as evidenced by action and supporting continuous improvement in organisations.

What if I'm unsure how much Action Learning is needed in my current programmes for accreditation?

We would make an initial assessment - see above. To use a real example, one organisation we assessed already had a well-established management development programme - they had specialist speakers coming in, senior management presenting and students could access library materials, together with classroom workshops. However, the programme wasn't focussing on encouraging managers to take action based on their learning - it was very much a laisez-faire approach. The credit-mapping we did showed that they had a good programme but needed to tighten up the action learning elements. We introduced a structure of Action Learning Questions. We offered this organisation our bank of Action Learning Questions - e.g. managing operations, managing people, organisational culture. Once the organisation understood the principles, senior directors stepped forward and wanted to sponsor specific Action Learning Questions based on specific business issues. Participants have to satisfy not just themselves and the CPD Business School, but their sponsors and the organisation.

My programmes don't involve management development - is there any point in me getting my courses accredited this way?

Only if you're involved in training where people find they get to the stage where they have to manage - it could be project management, operations, finance - there could well be benefits in looking at this route. This approach isn't relevant for entirely technical training.

What happens after the initial assessment?

Your report will have been processed through the IMCA for approval. You then decide exactly how you want to proceed.

The amount you'll be asked to contribute to the running of the accreditation scheme for your programmes depends on the relative contribution of you as training provider and the CPD Business School. A number of elements can be taken on by either us or you as provider - the more roles are taken on by you, the fewer the costs. For example, you might chose to use our existing faculty or may decide to set up your own. Faculty roles such as the role of Forum Facilitator, who supports learners directly, can be performed by either CPD Business School Faculty or by the training provider themselves.

The number of completed Action Learning Questions from a learner for each level of qualification is as follows:

4 - Post-Graduate Certificate
8 - Diploma
12 - Masters

An Action Learning Question is summarised in a 3,000 word paper submitted by the learner. Associates can also gain credit towards a Masters qualification based on prior experience and learning.

What happens once the accredited programmes start to be delivered?

At the delivery stage, we don't interfere with your programmes - you run them as before. Your students - or associates as we term them - have instant access to our online libraries with 1300 journals and can access our online campus, giving them the opportunity to share experiences with other action learners, attend global action learning conferences and events, and network with people. We also encourage associates to publish their best work. An Accreditation Adviser will be assigned to you to provide ongoing advice on your programme structure, support faculty, advise on programme redesign where required and interpret rules from the accrediting body. They act as one port of call for all of this. For Associates who've successfully completed their study, there's an annual multinational graduation ceremony which will be held in Scotland this year - the 2001 ceremony was held in Canada.

For more information:

Training providers who are interested in exploring the opportunities for accrediting their programmes can contact Joan Kimmins, Information Services Manager, CPD Business School or +44 (0) 151 625 4006 or send an e-mail.

Read what Clive Hook of Clearworth says about the process and the advantages of getting training accredited by the CPD business school.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!