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Action Learning

Conducting The Project


The Beginning

Action Learning LogoSince the Action Learning team is new, it is important for the group to spend time getting to know each other and develop group norms. This process need not be as lengthy or elaborate as it would be with a self-directed work team. The team may also need formal training in certain areas such as workcell design or process improvement.

Fixing The Problem Versus Learning

Several thousand years ago it was pointed out that teaching a hungry person to fish was better than giving them a fish to eat. Not much has changed in that respect.

The primary goal of Action Learning is the learning experience. Solving the problem is important but secondary to learning. It is easy for the group and easy for management to get caught up in the problem and shortcut the learning component.


The Active Learning team establishes a timeframe for the project in the early planning stage. This timeframe should allow for learning processes includes formal reflection and informal internalization of knowledge between sessions.


Facilitation practices in Active Learning vary widely and there is a range of opinion about their best role. Some facilitators are active in the beginning and then fade away as the group progresses. Others stay with the group throughout the project. However, some things are generally agreed.

  • Facilitation is most important in the beginning. This is where the facilitator guides the group in establishing norms, explaining the goals and ensures that planning is consistent with Active Learning principles.

  • The facilitator must not dominate the group or solve the problem for them. A facilitator may allow the group to flounder and, apparently, waste time. This time, however, is not really wasted; it is part of the learning process. The most important learning usually comes from struggling, floundering and making mistakes.

  • The facilitator should always be available, if the team requests help, to smooth group processes or provide specific training or expert advice.

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