Doing right in business: can action learning develop moral sensitivity and promote ethical behaviour?

Cheryl Brook, Gill Christy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The question addressed in this paper is whether action learning as a management development technique can be more effective in promoting ethical decision-making than more traditional approaches. Recent examples of moral failures which have emerged in both corporate and public sector organisations in the UK during recent years have prompted a review of some of the literature about the teaching of business ethics in and by business schools. While the use of theoretical approaches to ethical analysis (such as consequentialist and deontological approaches), coupled with the discussion of scenarios or cases is a common way of structuring the teaching of business and organisational ethics, it may be limited as an approach insofar as it does not necessarily address the affective aspects of the learning process which contribute to the development of moral sensitivity and moral character. It is suggested that an action learning approach may help fill this gap, particularly if coupled with an Aristotelian focus on the development of moral character. Action learning as a technique seeks to replace instruction with facilitation, and to enable individual personal growth rather than the acquisition of knowledge. It emphasises practical action in the workplace and working with peers as part of an action learning set. The action learning method may be more suitable to fostering both technical/scientific wisdom (poeisis) and practical or prudential wisdom (phronesis) and could be adapted for use with both business students and practising managers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)214-229
    JournalAction Learning: Research and Practice
    Issue number3
    Early online date6 Sept 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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