Manual Trends and Issues in Action Learning Practice: Lessons from South Korea

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According to Revans , the crucial difference between action learning and all traditional teaching e. Downloaded by [Yonjoo Cho] at 17 August Concerning research on the action learning process, we focus on two studies. Cho and Egan present an action learning process from an organization perspective and Bong, Kim, and Park describe a program design process. Cho and Egan developed a conceptual framework for action learning research. Figure 1 45 represents key dimensions of action learning and serves as a model for multi-method elaboration, testing, and critical analysis of key features of action learning.

The conceptual framework frames action learning as an intervention and process that includes four critical elements: 1 the initiation of action learning, 2 action learning intervention deployment, 3 action learning implemen- tation, and 4 action learning evaluation. Key elements in understanding ante- cedents in the initiation of action learning include the context of the action learning project and the characteristics of the work environment. Key features Figure 1. Dimensions of action learning: a conceptual framework. Action Learning: Research and Practice 5 Figure 2. The 4P design model.

Action learning implementation has to do with proximal outcomes e. Equally important is the assessment of action learning distal outcomes e. In each of the steps, we present questions that practitioners should deter- mine, review, and consider. How do we define business impact? What products should be delivered? How do we know partici- pants accomplished their goal? How should we communicate with stakeholders? How is an action learning program situated in an organization? Summary In reviewing literature on action learning, we learned several lessons: 1 our design model should be process-based.

Methods In this study, we took four steps to design a model of action learning, including two rounds of focus group interviews FGIs and Delphi Figure 3. FGI is a type of group interview Denzin and Lincoln Delphi in particular is widely used for gathering data from experts in an area Hsu and Sandford Downloaded by [Yonjoo Cho] at 17 August To ensure credibility of the study, we used three methods: member checks, peer debriefing, and audits Denzin and Lincoln We attempted to reach consensus regarding our discrepancies in the research process peer debriefing.

In the two Delphi processes, we attempted to check the validity through gathering comments of participating practitioners member checks. In the second FGI process, five of the six original action learning experts reviewed the results of the two rounds of Delphi audits. In the first FGI, we provided an overview of the study purpose and review process that six participants should work through and received feedback on the model we developed from the participants. These experts are all certified learn- ing coaches through the Korea Action Learning Association KALA and had experience participating in action learning and in designing action learning pro- grams.

We emphasized that the design process should be process-based as we suggested in the lessons learned in the previous section. We also emphasized that the design model should include considerations regarding program goals, participant needs and characteristics, and resource availability and specifica- tions.

During the idea relay session, we asked them to answer the question Figure 3. Four steps of designing an action learning model. Action Learning: Research and Practice 7 what will be the considerations for practitioners to know, check, and determine in the action learning design process? As a result of this idea relay process, we collected a total of 58 comments and categorized them using inductive and deductive methods. In the steps two and three, we worked through the two rounds of Delphi with 11 participants who have experience in designing at least two action learning programs in the past three years to garner their comments on the results of the first FGI.

We emailed the results of the first FGI and asked for their com- ments on what we should add in the design model in terms of considerations for decision-making. In the first round of Delphi, we collected eight new items for consideration. In the second round of Delphi, we asked them to add items to the results of the first round. In the last step, five action learning experts out of the original six experts met again to review the results of the two rounds of Delphi to revise our design Downloaded by [Yonjoo Cho] at 17 August model.

To ensure applicability, we analyzed two action learning programs that used our design model. Based on the analysis, we identified areas for improvement for the design model. Findings In this section, we report the results of the four steps that we have worked through: two FGIs with 5—6 action learning experts and two rounds of Delphi with 11 action learning practitioners. Tables 1—3 show the results of the two FGIs and Delphi processes. Table 1 presents that the first FGI delivered a total of 58 decision-making considerations required for practitioners to design an action learning program.

These considerations include decision-making questions needed for micro decisions e. Using deductive and inductive reasoning, action learning experts narrowed down considerations into 22 broad categories. First Delphi The first Delphi process was performed with 11 action learning practitioners between 20 January and 5 February , for two and a half weeks. Table 1. Results of the first FGI. Items for considerations Decision-making questions Benefits for practitioners What are the benefits for practitioners?

How will you motivate practitioners? Program goals What is the goal of an action learning program? What do sponsors want? Participant selection Who is the program for? What is the background of participants? What are their characteristics? How will you select participants? Resources How many resources personnel and physical are available? What is the timeline for the program?

Outputs What will the output be like? What is the output for participants? How will action problem solving and learning be balanced in the end? Downloaded by [Yonjoo Cho] at 17 August Project selection How will you support the project selection process? Guidelines for the project What guidelines are available for participants to achieve selection their learning goals?

What are the project selection criteria fitting the program goal? Project samples What project samples are available for participants to get an idea? What are the difficulties for participants to complete their job? Project launching Will you provide a project launching ceremony? How will ceremony you do the ceremony? For whom? Process support Is an SME necessary for participants to complete a project? What tools are available in the process? How will the process be different depending on the process methods and projects?

Sponsor management Who are the project sponsors? How will you promote sponsor interest and support? When will the program sponsors be involved? How will you define the effectiveness of the program? What will you evaluate each step of the process? How will you guarantee the success of the program? Stakeholders Who will be the stakeholders other than participants?

How will you persuade implementation in their departments or support units? Learning coach roles How will you add a learning coach to teams? How will you select and develop learning coaches? How will you ensure the quality of learning coaches? How will you motivate internal learning coaches? How will you explain the role of a learning coach to participants and sponsors?

Items for considerations Decision-making questions Motivating participants How will you motivate participants? How will you avoid free riders? Designing the process How will you design the entire process that meets the program goal? Presentation Who will do the final presentation? When we are asked to examine a familiar problem in an unfamiliar setting, it can open up our eyes to new alternatives. We may also find ourselves addressing an unfamiliar problem in a familiar setting.

This was true to a large extent in the computer responsiveness problem I outlined. This kind of situation also causes us to ask fresh questions and reexamine our basic assumptions. The Belgium case involved an unfamiliar problem and unfamiliar setting for the business executives involved. In addition, each executive was surrounded by unfamiliar colleagues. It promoted new ways of going about learning and problem solving. Revans considers this the most potent form of the action learning experience.

In action learning, you deal with real problems, not problems that have been prefabricated for instructional purposes. The best way to promote fresh questions and new thinking is by causing the problem, setting, and colleagues to be unfamiliar. Usually, action learning is accomplished in action learning sets of five or six to provide a group size that promotes ease of communication.

A facilitator can be used. Some of us believe that facilitation should be used primarily at the start of an action learning experience and then quickly fade out. Revans believes that learners are their own best facilitators. There can be an important role for facilitators in helping the learners slow down their process in order to allow sufficient time to reflect on learning. Reflection is an important part of an action learning experience. Executives, in their impatience to move forward and solve problems, can find it extremely difficult to take time to reflect on what has been learned.

When they are encouraged to do so, reflection on learning can represent a positive executive development and individual growth experience. A facilitator can help participants learn this skill. Members of the set, as part of the norming process, can also promote use of reflection in the learning process.

High investment

What is driving organizations in terms of rapid environmental change requires rapid real-time adaptation. Action learning is well suited to this type of adaptation. Work complexity and organizational design also make it a natural intervention. Work complexity is moving downward in organizations as the need for timely action and multiple competencies grows.

In its early use, action learning tended to focus on executives, as occurred in Belgium. Today, the realities of the workplace and growing competency base make it a model that can be used at all levels in an organization. In fact, in Sweden, action learning has even been employed in the K classroom environment, with parents, teachers, and children participating in the experience.

The need for organizational integration in responding to change also fits well with action learning. The concept of action learning tends to be very egalitarian, with action learning sets operating without a designated leader.

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Any mantle of authority is usually left at the door. This makes action learning a good fit with self-directed work teams SDWT. Such teams are rapidly becoming a feature of U. There is also a growing awareness of the learning challenge now confronting organizations. You see this in the choice of terms now becoming common place: organizational learning, continuous learning, life-long learning, deutero-learning learning to learn , boundarylessness, self-ordering systems chaos theory , integration with environment, learning organizations, building and sustaining intellectual capital, self-directed learning, the emerging concept of the chief learning officer CLO , and virtual organizations.

Because of the significance assigned to real problem solving and unfamiliar venue, action learning meshes well with the need for spontaneity and speed of adaptation. TRW has a program designed to underwrite its emphasis on globalization. It involves taking executives away from their corporate site to work on such issues in action learning sets. TRW then may send them overseas in order to further induce fresh thinking and elevate the degree of learning taking place. Let me tie the concept down as a progression of phases.

Each phase sets the stage for the next phase. It is a cascading effort. Broadly conceptualizing action learning is one thing, but how do you go about the actual process of implementation? The concept can be strongly resisted. The training community can see such an experiential approach as threatening to long-established training programs.

It can even be viewed as placing traditional training jobs in jeopardy. Top management can frown on it because it does not fit the established mold. It can be a desire for quantitative results. Action learning can and has produced this, but it can be difficult to measure results in traditional ways and in the short term. How do you go about gauging the increase in learning capacity of the organization?

While some tools for doing this are emerging, it is still in its early stages. Top executives can also resist on the basis that it seems nonsensical to take executives out of their primary area of expertise and assign them responsibilities for solving a problem outside the bounds of that expertise. What follows is an abbreviated sequential look at steps in implementing an action learning program. As already outlined, both the training community and top management can resist an action learning approach.

Therefore, it is important that they understand the rationale behind it and how the concept is being used elsewhere. It can be useful to expose both trainers and top executives to the concept, including the opportunity to meet with those who have used the action learning process.

Trainers need to understand that the introduction of action learning does not cause the human resource development HRD function to go away. It simply changes the focus and kinds of skills HRD professionals need to possess. This early acquisition of support is critical. Without such support, only a limited action learning program is usually possible. If the culture of the organization is lacking in trust, this can be a major impediment to action learning. It operates best in a wholesome organizational climate.

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If the organization is heavily authoritative or status-conscious, this can also impose a constraint. Fear and uncertainty also work against action learning as an intervention. If top management is really on board, action learning can be employed to transform organizational culture in arriving at a more trusting and productive work environment. It can be an important force in opening up communication flows.

But you do need very strong leadership at the top to bring about such a change. This is really true of any major shift of organizational direction, not just that specific to action learning. Because action learning is strategic and primarily designed to promote learning, the problem needs to be selected carefully. This also relates to how you will use your small groups action learning sets.

One option is to have the set take on a shared problem as was true in the computer problem case example. Another approach is to have each member of the five or six member set work on a different problem but learn from each other the Belgium model. Problem selection and how you use the action learning set can also serve strategic interests of the organization.

For example, a problem might be selected for the set to work on that causes integration of various processes across the organization. If each member of the set operates on a separate problem, the set members individually need to be capable of dealing with the complexity involved, because while they can draw on the views of other set members, they will be left to deal with their own focus area and much of the fact finding and analysis.

The determination of who will be in an action learning set is again strategic. It is not something that should be done randomly. There can be value in bringing people together from different organizations to work on a problem. Beyond the potential value of an unfamiliar problem for learning purposes, such a cross-section can help build organizational integration through creation of networks that did not exist before. There can be an issue around voluntary versus involuntary membership in a set. My own view is that volunteers are desirable, but set assignment itself needs to fit strategic interests.

If set selection is voluntary, you can end up with a clique of friends or people with compatible views. Your goal is to build in diversity. The problem solving and learning properties tend to be elevated through incorporation of a variety of perspectives. Learning styles are another important factor in set selection. If you have all activists in a set and no reflective types, you can end up with a rush to judgment. Presence of reflectors will help slow the process sufficiently to better consider available options.

It should also allow greater focus on the learning taking place. It is not a case of being one or the other. There are cases of an individual being strong or weak in all four types. It represents how we communicate, view our world, and what we emphasize in our life experience. It can be a gauge to how well we listen and what we hear.

Strong activists can be disinclined to spend time in a reflective mode. While no instrument is fail safe, the LSQ can be helpful in balancing set composition. In addition to learning styles, it is also useful to balance gender, age, and ethnicity in sets. This adds diversity and richness. It is common to employ a facilitator with a set. As mentioned previously, there are wide differences of view on this. A good start point is to consider the role of the facilitator. It can be an important role at the outset in helping the set norm itself in terms of interpersonal dynamics.

If you are dealing with mature learners, the role becomes more problematic thereafter.

The facilitator is not a member of the set, and the mere presence of a facilitator can influence even damper what occurs. As a reality of group dynamics, there is no such thing as a benign presence. I have seen facilitators rejected in several instances because of perceived interference with set operation or simply unwanted presence. The presence of a facilitator, even when they remain silent for the most part, can influence interaction within the set.

After that, I believe the facilitator needs to fade back to what can be called mentor status. The facilitator is available as needed and will provide perspectives related to action learning but never tell the set how to deal with an issue. How the set deals with its problem is left to the learners. There can be a great urge to race forward to problem solutions in a set—and that is one of the goals. The learning can receive insufficient emphasis in such a situation.

As a result, the action learning experience can become little more than another task-force-related excursion. One way to avoid this common phenomenon is through proper priming of set activity at the start. This is something a good facilitator will do. It is also extremely useful to have set members keep a daily learning log, and then develop a reflective essay on the learning experience at program end. It can be beneficial to have participants think of several critical incident categories in making entries in their learning log. Set members need to learn about each other early in the action learning experience.

You need to make the time to do this. The facilitator can assist. What background and skills are at the table? How can they potentially contribute to problem resolution? During this early state, norms also need to be determined. A recent set I was associated with came up with these norms:. The norming process is particularly significant because there is no designated leader. Therefore, interpersonal relationships become critical. In my recent experience, sets have operated throughout the action learning process without a single leader emerging. All tend to share the role.

This is, of course, also a product of careful set member selection so there is relative parity in intellectual level and how personalities mesh. When the norming process is short-circuited because of pressure to get on with problem solving, it can become necessary to reopen the norming process. I watched a set in cease problem solving activities for half a day until the group could come to a meeting of the minds on what had turned out to be unfinished business in the norming area. In this instance, one of the set members had displayed excessive dominance, and the set had to talk it through.

Because action learning sets operate as self-directed teams, they can be an ideal bridge for those organizations moving in the direction of self-directed work teams. Action learning promotes empowerment and self-reliance. I have also seen it significantly elevate the self-confidence of participants. Working with a client can be new ground for set members. The facilitator can assist as an agent in the process but should never act as the representative of the set.

I recently saw a facilitator overstep the role in speaking for a set with the client—and with the set present. The facilitator did not enjoy the full respect of the set again. One or more set members may end up selected by their fellows to be liaison with the client. Such an arrangement can prove necessary, but all set members should meet with the client concurrently whenever possible. Revans speaks of Alpha, Beta, and Gamma in relation to action learning. In order to provide an integrated overview of action learning, let me address these three indices briefly.

It moves from personal values to external circumstances and internal resources. They were alluded to early in this article as the start point when an action learning set begins work. There are three questions that get asked.

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What should be happening? What is stopping it from happening? What can I do to remove the blockage? Revans, , p. System Beta relates to a five-stage process, endlessly repeated as Revans describes it as participants set members move toward their goals. Here you see the cycle repeating.

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As is done in action research, in effect, you research, act, review results, and repeat the cycle. It is trial and error, following the logic of the scientific method.

Trends and Issues in Action Learning Practice | Lessons from South Korea | Taylor & Francis Group

System Gamma is the interaction between the manager or set member and the situation she or he is trying to influence. This cannot be discounted. We are who we are and relate to events from our own unique framework of knowing. This is another reason why set members need to know other set members at a deep level.

In the process, we also come to know ourselves better. This, by itself, can be an important learning outcome. They have to use their language skills to negotiate, collaborate and build friendships in order to escape from a forgotten planet at the edge of the universe. Any learning that takes place is incidental. Would you like to receive more articles like this?

Embodied learning is based on the idea that learning is not just about remembering. It involves using the mind and the body, collaborating, discussing and exploring. Learners need to be emotionally, intellectually, physically and socially engaged. Courses such as Doodle Town Macmillan Education use visual, audio and hands-on activities to stimulate and inspire learning, getting young learners to draw, create, and be inquisitive.

The scenarios that teachers come across in some course materials can seem simplified and unrealistic, leading us to wonder if we are adequately training our learners for real life in the 21st century. They encourage teenagers to practise the soft skills and communication skills needed to take part in the global communities of the 21st century. Aimed at the adult learner, Perspectives National Geographic uses real-life stories and TED talks to motivate learners to think critically and creatively. Teachers and learners discover how writers and speakers use grammar to express themselves in real life.

Many refused to consider how the concept of English as an international language might fit into course materials and language teaching. Today, we see resource materials like PronPack Mark Hancock taking a non-prescriptive approach to accent and instead focusing on increased intelligibility as the objective. In global communities where English is a common language of communication alongside other languages, knowledge of other languages is an asset. This requires complex social and cognitive skills. In contrast, strict English-only classrooms are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Such linguistic diversity is celebrated in courses like the Family Skills Toolkit Learning Unlimited Ltd that encourages parents and carers of children learning English to see their bilingualism as a benefit. The more we understand individual learners' needs, the more we can tailor our lessons to suit them. Silva Education Ltd caters to Brazilian learners from low-income families.