What is action learning?

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Action learning is a process by which a group of people come together to focus on a collective project. The aim of the project is to introduce an organisational or operational change and to use the intended change as a vehicle for learning through experimentation, measurement and reflection on outcomes. The team members draw collective learning from the collective experience.

Professor Reginald Revans (1907 – 2003) developed the principles of action learning. These principles are based on the premise that we can solve the most difficult challenges and problems through our own experience and learning. The really difficult problems and challenges (those without right answers) can never be solved by experts (those who deal in right answers) and can only be resolved by the people who have these problems and face these challenges.

“There is no learning without action… there is no action without learning.”

Professor Reginald Revans 1907-2003

Action learning broadens the experience of participants, exposing them to different industries and different practices. It encourages them to challenge existing practices in their own organisation and to do things differently. This learning may be a direct result of the action learning project, or it could be incidental learning from things observed in the course of the project.

Participants typically come from different situations where they are involved in different activities and face individual problems. This diversity enriches the learning process.


Action learning is increasingly preferred as an option to conventional coursework because for most adults, exploratory and experiential learning comes more naturally than acquisitional learning (lectures, seminars, reading). Action learning is more engaging and exciting and the participants feel that they are in control of the learning process. Adults are generally bored by lectures and presentations and are not comfortable in a submissive learning situation. The focus of the learning is specific to the needs of the participants, rather than generic, and the learning skills and team processes developed are readily transferred by the participants to their own workplaces.