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Emma Falkner

ECF Training and Action Learning UK

Director of ECF Training and Action Learning UK

Read more from Emma Falkner

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What is action learning all about?


Does this sound like a team of people you know or work with?

Excellent at reflecting and analyzing their problems – but struggle to take any sort of action!

Action learning will benefit teams that are stuck in this type of situation.

What is action learning and what is a ‘set’?

Action learning is when a small group of between 5 to 8 people meet regularly, keep to a strict set of action learning conventions and ground rules, resolve important, urgent, problems which relate to individuals in the group and/or to the organisations they work for.

This small group of people is described as an action learning ‘set’.

Why does a Set have to be made up of between 5 to 8 people?

When less than 5 people attend a set, there is a smaller pool of ideas, reflections and questions to pick from and think about. Learning as a group is also more limited.

If an action learning set has more than 8 members, introverted types may ‘hide out’ and extrovert members may find themselves speaking more. Therefore, the premise that ‘all action learning set members are expected to contribute equally’ may be difficult to maintain or uphold.

The ideal number for an action learning set is six.

Why do I need a ‘trained’ action learning facilitator?

Simply, if you do not have someone who is trained in the conventions, the ground rules and the questioning techniques, an action learning set may become just another talking shop. It is critical for some teams, (like the one you may have recognised above), to have a structure, which encourages and expects action as well as reflection.

Anyone calling themselves an action learning facilitator should have undergone an in depth form of formal training. I recommend that you only employ facilitators that have gained a nationally recognized qualification or accreditation with a body like the Institute for Leadership and Management (ILM).

The facilitator must be able to communicate the benefits of action learning to the participants in the action learning set. They will also be confident in setting up a series of action learning sets which include ground rules, clear outcomes, and a good understanding of the process and format of action learning.

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Emma Falkner

Director of ECF Training and Action Learning UK

Read more from Emma Falkner

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