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University of Bath

People Management Action Learning Sets

Learning Sets provide a structured approach for individuals to explore issues that need resolving and find solutions in an empowering environment

What is Action Learning?

Action learning is defined as a “continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with an intention of getting things done” (McGill and Beaty, 2001, p. 11). Participants work on real work issues and take the time to reflect on experiences and offer supportive challenge in order to resolve problems. All members of the group also develop skills in listening, reflecting back what they have heard, demonstrating empathy, and questioning to help the presenter to understand the issue more fully and provide feedback.

How does it work?

An Action Learning Set is a group of about 5 to 8 people who meet regularly with a trained facilitator. Participants sign up to be a member of an Action Learning Set, and when there are enough participants a set is created. The set then meet with a facilitator and agree how and when they will meet (usually at least 6 meetings, every 6 weeks, around 3 hours long).

At each meeting participants bring a problem, challenge or task from their current workload, which they share with the set, allowing them to explore the issue and tap into the ideas and experiences of other set members. They then test out actions in the workplace and return to the set with reflections of their experience.

What are the benefits?

  • Learning from others – participants learn from others’ experience, gain insight and broaden their awareness
  • Increased self-efficacy – participants are empowered to find their own solutions rather than being told what to do
  • Real impact at work – participants focus on real work issues, take action and reflect on their experience

Useful resources

For background information, please read:

Leading Libraries Briefing Paper on Action Learning Sets