Action Learning Sets with Bela Emerson
What is an Action Learning Set?
‘Action Learning is a continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with an intention of getting things done.’ (McGill & Beatty, 1992)
An Action Learning Set (ALS) follows a structured format of peer support with an external facilitator, taking place at regular intervals over a pre-arranged length of time, with the same people attending each time. The purpose and intention of the set is to focus on work challenges and learn from the process. Set members present and explore live work issues in turn with support from other members in a facilitated and safe environment. The emphasis is on action and reflection.
How can Action Learning benefit practitioners and creative processes?
An ALS is powerful in itself for both issue holders and set members. The practice and process of exploration and reflection is also often very helpful outside the set: for example, practising asking open-ended questions rather than advice-giving tends to empower and enable, as well as encourage curiosity.
What is the expectation of set members and the time commitment?
A set usually comprises 5-7 people plus the facilitator, and meets at regular intervals (eg: monthly, or every six weeks), for a pre-determined number of sessions. Each session has a fixed length (no less than two hours, no more than four); the set can meet either in-person or online.
During the session, set members will be encouraged and supported to ask and develop asking exploratory questions of each other. This is an active process, so all set members are required to commit to the process, eg: turning off phones, actively listening, reflecting on the process, being open with each other. As part of each session, there is also a process review so that the set itself can develop with the members.