David Parrish
international management consultant and trainer
Ideas and Tools

Action Learning

Action Learning by combining Knowledge and Questioning

The term 'Action Learning' was coined by Reg Revans, and emphasises Learning by Doing. Action Learning occurs by combining programmed knowledge (learnt information) and by questioning how that knowledge can be applied to a particular circumstance. This is not just a case of slowly learning from experience, but deliberately asking insightful questions, and analysing the situation by synthesing theory with practice.

The Action Learning concept can be expressed as a scientific equation: L = P + Q,
(where Learning = Programmed Knowledge + Questioning)

In academic learning begins with knowledge and then is put into action, whereas in Action Learning, action or experience comes first and learning follows.

Action Learning takes place most effectively in small groups, or Learning Sets, where managers work with their peers and can discuss problems and admit failures openly in a supportive yet challenging environment in order to have the opportunity to learn from their own and others' experience. In this way they can find practical solutions and learn by combining real situations with theoretical knowledge.

Action Learning has been extremely successful in Belgium, where managers were exchanged between industries to help each other with their problems and learn from their experiences. By comparing similar situation in different settings, managers were able to see common patterns in their experience of successes and failures, and consequently learn how to improve performance.

Contact me for Action Learning facilitation.

Note: This web page is not intended to provide comprehensive coverage of the subject, merely a brief introduction to provoke thought and to lead to a more in depth understanding and application of the topic, either through further reading - or from me as your management consultant, executive trainer or personal coach in a consultancy project, training course, workshop or seminar.

References and Further Reading

Revans, R. Action Learning. Blond and Briggs. 1979
Revans, R. ABC of Action Learning. Lemos and Crane. 1998.
Mumford, A. Action Learning at Work. Gower. 1997
Pedler, M. Action Learning in Practice. 1997


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