15Action Learning: Approaches, Applications, and Outcomes

Lisa Anderson and Charlotte Coleman


Action learning has grown from the simple idea that the task or the problem should take precedence over theory as the basis for learning. In the twenty-first century it has moved into the mainstream of management development and takes a wide range of forms, used in many organizations and educational settings throughout the world. There is a wide range of published work on action learning, ranging from practitioner focused, “how-to” texts to peer-reviewed academic journal papers. However, it is important to say at the outset that while there are a number of approaches to action learning, many of which are described in this chapter, it is often understood and used as a broad term that encompasses any approach to learning that engages learners in some form of activity or in an experiential mode. Here, the focus is on the specifics of action learning rather than the generalities of active learning.

This chapter traces the development of action learning and its growth as an approach to developing managers. It sets out the most prevalent approaches to action learning, the contexts in which it is used, the theoretical basis for learning and reflection that underpins it, and the reasons why it is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in management education and development.

The Origins of Action Learning – Reg Revans

Rigg and Trehan (2013) propose that action learning has eschewed ...

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