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Action Learning Sets


I have recently come across the idea of Action Learning Sets and am interested in finding out more about them. They seem to be the latest craze and I would like to start using them as a development tool.

Does anyone know where I can get some more information?
Alka Soni

13 Responses

  1. “Craze”
    If you want to see it as the latest “craze”, then don’t bother looking in to them.

    If you are interested in seriously exploring the topic and willing to confront your own assumptions about learning as well, try starting with reading Peter Senge’s book “The Fifth Discipline” as a good framework for thinking about them.

  2. Not a ‘craze’
    Far from being the ‘latest craze’ Action Learning, as pioneered by Professor Reg Revans, has been developing worldwide over the last 40 years.

    If you contact me ([email protected]) I will e-mail you copies of two articles on Action Learning from Vol 1, Number 2 of the ITOL Journal, or the feature on Reg Revans work from the newly published ITOL guidebook ‘Influential Thinkers on Training’.

    Alternatively, do a Google search for Action Learning Revans – you will find thousands of references there, or contact the Revans Institute for Action Learning and Research at the University of Salford.

    Jeffrey Brooks
    Institute of Training and Occupational Learning.

  3. Great source on action learning
    Yes, it goes back a long way to Revans’ work over 50 years ago – so not the latest thing, but a very useful approach to development nonetheless. A really readable book that I always recommend to the people who I train in action learning facilitation is “Action Learning: A Guide for Professional, Management and Educational Development” by Ian McGill and Liz Beaty. In spite of the long title it’s very accessible and explains clearly how to do it – including some of the important ethical issues involved like confidentiality.

    Lucy Marder
    [email protected]

  4. Do you want to look at content or process?

    Reg Revans’ work and Peter Senge’s thinking are both good, but it pays to judge early whether the emphasis of the ALS is (to be) on concrete problem solving (‘content’ – eg making progress on a technical project) or on the learning associated with working together as a group (‘process’ – eg the feelings, interactions and teamwork issues in working together on a project) – Edgar Schein’s work is important here but you could also look at Peter Cockman et al ‘Consulting for Real People’ (McGraw Hill 1999)


  5. The value of Action Learning Sets
    Action Learning was a term coined by Prof. Reg Revans to describe and approach to learning that is grounded in the practice of participants. ALS meet periodically, with the support of a facilitator, to take action on problem areas within their own area of practice – the learning occurs from reflection on the problem and reflection on the action taken to resolve the problem. I have used ALS in a variety of different ways and with different levels of staff. This has included managers undertaking a qualification, and supervisors and reception staff in in house development programmes. If you would like to discuss further – please contact me.

  6. Action Learning set for Real
    Dr Richard Hale is a frequent contributor to TrainingZone and I would strongly recommend contact with him. He has helped us extensively with the setting up and ongoing management/facilitation of action learning sets which we use as part of our Masters level programme for senior managers in our corporate clients. In fact Richard has also helped us to arrange accreditation based on Action Learning – no small feat when you try to deal with traditional learning/education mindsets. Search for him in TrainingZone or – if a problem – contact me and I’ll provide what’s needed.

    Clive Hook
    Clearworth – a class apart

    PS – I’m not sure I go with others on Peter Senge as a model (We have worked in the States with Senge’s work and his colleague Robert Fritz who features in the Fifth Discipline under Personal Mastery). Dialogue yes – Action learning in its true form (a la Revans)- not really

  7. Reading on Action Learning
    I am taking part in Action Learning Currently. I find it, commiting, exhausting, innovative and productive!

    Recommended reading: Action Learning for Managers by Mike Pedler ISBN 1-898001-28-6 (a comprehensive read of approx. 100 pages).

    Also visit the NHS Information Authority’s website where a booklet in .pdf format is available for download.

  8. action learning facilitation protocols
    On top of all the other good advice, you may also like to know that Peter Hawkins of Bath Consultancy Group created a very practical protocol for facilitating action learning sets which we have adapted and used for 12 years as participants and as coaches in action learning facilitation for the EU and the UN. It is one of the strongest formats for wisdom-sharing (and ignorance sharing) we know. But ‘action learning’ is interpreted so widely as to be frequently meaningless, which is why Revans (the source)is such a good place to start. Action learning sets in the right organisations are very effective collaborative tools for exchanging existing practice and practical forums for creating new responses to new situations. Often much more value for money that parachuting in traditional generic management training courses! Best introduced with a pilot group who will spread the word if it works.

  9. Useful read
    Try reading Action Learning by Ian McGill and Liz Beaty – Kogan Page – ISBN 0749434538

  10. Congratulations
    Some resources that may be of use to you in your journey into the facinating (and rewarding) world of Action Learning:

    Action Learning Group – ( this discussion group to learn more about Action Learning.

    ACI – ( as above

    There is also a page dedicated to Action Learning Books at:


    John Belchamber
    Senior Partner
    Mob: +61 (0)410 664 997
    Tel: +61 (2) 9836 4997

    Two useful sites:

    Three books [I’ve read the third one, it’s very readable and clear]:

    Action Learning, Ian McGill & Liz Beaty, 2nd edn, 2000, London, Kogan Page

    Action Learning for Managers, Mike Pedler, 1996, London, Lemos & Crane

    Action Learning, Krystyna Weinstein, 2nd edn, 1999, London, Gower

    I’m happy to talk about my [limited] experience after 17 July …

  12. More helpful bookmarks
    For a range of bookmarks to AL topics, I have often found the following link useful…

    We have been using Action Learning as a long term management/leadership vehicle for several years and I would stress the importance of good facilitation of the Learning Set.

    As you will have read, it is certainly not the latest craze and has well founded principles and obvious links to Kolb et al. Go for it, you can only learn!

  13. Action Learning
    This isn’t new, but we are perhaps seeing a re-emergence of the approach. Pioneered by Reg Revans formerly of the Manchester Business School through work with the NHS and NCB (National Coal Board) there is an abundance of management literature and the methodology is widely used in academic circles, and project management, problem solving etc in organisations.

    Salford University houses the Revan’s Foundation and runs courses using Action Learning Approaches.


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