Action Learning last Friday

Every month or so I attend a meeting with five other people for a day in each other’s home. With two founding members still at it, the group has had slow-churning membership for 16 years. Our most recent meeting was this Friday gone, at my house. Members come from as far as Bourne End, Bucks, Redbourn, St Albans and Henlow.

We get together at 10 when we ‘check in’ bringing each other up to date with events, trends and feelings in our lives. After this comes a short period of administration, mainly to do with meeting dates (we keep a six-month future meeting-date diary), then a short tea-break. In ‘bidding time’ we sit silently to think about whether we want ‘airtime’ for anything on our minds we would like to bring to the group, sometimes just to say it to people we trust, sometimes to seek answers to problems or dilemmas. The day rolls on with people taking turns of an hour or so, being asked non-leading questions which must not contain information, advice or suggestions. At the end of each session we analyse how we did, trying not to go back into the content of the now-concluded airtime. We have a short lunch, and at the end of the day we talk about the whole-day process much as we do the individual’s airtime process, and 3 we adjourn until the next time. Each meeting someone carries out the role of ‘it’, a word that tries to nullify attempts at facilitator, leader or coach, but is necessary at times to remind us that time is finite. The backgrounds of the members are broadly in training, organisational development, social work and consultancy, and two still earn their living by some of these means. The gender split is 50/50, the average age is 64, we’re all British-born. This meeting is an Action Learning set meeting. Each of us greatly looks forward to it.

Action Learning is a worldwide activity with its roots in industrial England in the 1940s, and is a novel way of addressing problems by tapping a person’s insight and forcing self-discovered solutions rather than being supplied with answers. It is adult learning and it is social learning, and it is not everyone’s cup of tea!

For more information on Action Learning, please plug into the Internet, especially http://ifal.org.uk and I humbly offer my own published article for a closer look at our group in Action Learning research and Practice, Volume 9. Issue 2, 2012. For a no-cost look, here is a Word document: AL Study AL Journal Version copy

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