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{Excerpt} Conventional approaches to learning hinge on the presentationof knowledge and skills. Then again, knowledge is revealedthrough methods of questioning amid risk, confusion,and opportunity. Reginald Revans, the originator of actionlearning, recommended that one should keep away from experts with prefabricated answers. Rather, people shouldbecome aware of their lack of knowledge and be preparedto explore their ignorance with suitable questions and helpfrom others: finding the right questions rather than the right answers is important, and it is one’s perception of a problem, one’s evaluation of what is to be gained by solving it, and one’s estimation of the resourcesavailable to solve it that supply the springs of human action.

Action learning is an educational process by which a person studies his or her own actions and experience to improveperformance. Put simply, it is about solving problems and getting things done. In action learning, a smallgroup of 5–8 persons (called action learning set) meets regularly for a day or half a day over at least 6 months and works collectively on a problem faced in ongoing practice. The action learning set helps a “presenter”work on a problem through supportive but challenging questioning. It encourages a deeper understanding of theissues involved, a reflective reassessment of the problem, and an exploration of ways forward. (Action learningrequires that actions be agreed at the end of each meeting.) By so doing, it provides a structured way of workingthat provide the discipline we often need to learn from what we do and improve practice as a result.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Action learning. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (