What is Action Learning?
What is the last class or training you can remember taking? Did it happen to be a lecture that made you feel drained afterward? Well, action learning is a tool that instructors can use to create an energizing training or class for participants.
Action learning techniques can be used individually, as a team, in a small group setting, or within an organization. Action learning can be conducted one on one, in person at a physical location, or online. Using this method of teaching can aid in the education of an individual because it uses audio, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile learning styles to develop successful strategies.
What are the key elements of Action Learning?
The Key elements of action learning can be a combination of any or all of the items listed below:
a. Problems & Questions
b. Active listening
c. Coaching & Reflection
d. Sharing & Learning
e. Develop Plan
f. Take Action
In a group setting, one could start a session off with a common problem or pose a question to the class to get the thought process warming up. Then, the team could have a discussion, and by using active listening and engaging with the group, they can start to brainstorm to formulate more questions and different solutions.
The instructor of the course contributes as a coach on the sideline, providing encouragement and guidance. As the group collaborates, they can also reflect about items that have been discussed and create a priority list. This style of learning and sharing experience allows for everyone to add ideas or formulate new ones quickly because the activities are timed. Once the time is up, the group should be able to present what they have developed and receive feedback. Once they have done so, they can make modifications and take action to implement what they have learned.
How to Apply Action Learning
Action Learning can be applied to anything you may be teaching by take the material and create a hands-on learning experience. An example of an action learning activity that I have used involves smarties candies, a timer, and one hand. In this exercise, we have three rounds where participants are asked to write down how many smarties candies do they think they can stack in one vertical column within one minute. After one minute, we observe who stacked the most, the least, and discuss why. Next, we do it again, and I have them write down what they think they can get, but before we start the timer, I tell them they have to use their non-dominant hand. Some are surprised with the outcome, and others struggle stacking their column of candy.
In the third round, they can use either hand and get to work with a partner. During these rounds, the candy that they stack that reaches the goal they have written down counts as ten points and they get five points extra for every candy stacked over their goal. If they do not achieve the set goal, then the candies only count as five points.
After all the rounds are complete, we discuss SMART goals and set goals for the group and work on individual goals. This exercise gets participants thinking how goal setting can work in their business. Reflect on how the environment influences the goals (say the table shakes and knocks over all the candy) and what motivated the individuals to stack more or less candy. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timed. Goals should be adjusted from time to time to reflect changing circumstance and priorities of the individual and company.
How Can Action Learning Benefit You
One of the main benefits to individuals that are participating in Action Learning is that they can use their learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and tactile) to make the learning experience enjoyable. Teaching this method to individuals keeps them actively engaging in the learning process making the experience fun which, makes it “sticky” and memorable. As individuals continue to participate in active learning, they also improve on their problem solving, creative, communication, and management skills.