The Influence of Action Learning on Student Perception and Performance

By Stappenbelt, B. | Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, June 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Influence of Action Learning on Student Perception and Performance


Stappenbelt, B., Australasian Journal of Engineering Education


1 INTRODUCTION

Revans (1983), largely acknowledged as the founder of action learning (McGill & Beaty, 2002), described the process of learning in the terms of the reflective inquiry process, where learning is the sum total of attaining programmed knowledge and questioning of current insight. Marquardt (1999) added a third element, reflection, to this model of learning to emphasise its importance. The reflection component of the learning model is where information is recalled, dismantled and reorganised in an attempt to gain further understanding. When considering the facilitation of learning how to solve complex and ill-defined problems, educational methods focusing on the delivery of programmed knowledge alone are clearly insufficient. Programmed knowledge or access to this knowledge is a required pre- or co-requisite, however, questioning and reflection are also integral to achieving this higher level learning.

Action learning is a group-based educational strategy that facilitates individual learning through engagement with group members in the solution of current, real and complex problems. The process of action learning occurs in a group called a set. Widespread current practise is to use sets of between four and seven participants (Beaty, 2003). Sets may be led by a set adviser or facilitator, or they may be self-facilitating. Set meetings are conducted regularly throughout the duration of the problem or project of interest to set members. This problem or project may be individual, group or organisation dictated; however, it must be a real problem with which the set member is currently engaged. Also, the problem must be sufficiently complex so that it cannot be readily solved through direct application of programmed knowledge. Throughout the duration of the problem or project, set members follow the action learning cycle.

The action learning cycle consists of four distinct phases through which the individual learner within the set continually progresses. These consist of an action phase, reflection upon that experience, theorising based upon the reflective analysis of prior experience in the action phase, and eventually a planning phase, where subsequent actions are determined in the form of a list of action points (Beaty, 2003). Within the set meetings, the phases of reflection, theorising and planning undertaken by individual set members are supported by the other set members. Between set meetings the learner works through the action plan in the context of the real and complex problem of interest. The action phase therefore produces experience of direct relevance to further understanding and further learning related to the problem. Action learning thus provides a formalised educational structure to facilitate experiential learning. It allows the learner to move through the experience, reflection, generalisation and testing of these generalisations as described by the Kolb experiential learning cycle (McGill & Beaty, 2002; Kolb & Kolb, 2005) in a structured manner supported by the experiences, questioning and insights of others.

An action learning set is not a team, even if a single problem or project is shared among the set members. The group dynamics associated with teams are very different. Teams have well-defined group objectives and all members of the team work to complete associated tasks for the benefit of the team. Plans are generally discussed and agreed upon by the team as a whole and there is no emphasis on individual learning. In the action learning set, the set members have individual objectives, and the other members work to support the learning and actions of these individuals. This does not mean, however, that action learning set members cannot also concurrently function as team members. The two modes of group interaction, however, must be clearly delineated. At the other extreme in the continuum of group based education, it must be noted that a set is not merely a support or counselling group (McGill & Beaty, 2002).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Influence of Action Learning on Student Perception and Performance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?