Purpose – This paper aims to explore the introduction of a new experience-based learning process in the learning and teaching of human resource development (HRD) within a professionally accredited curriculum in a UK University. Design/methodology/approach – An action enquiry approach is taken, and qualitative data gathered over a full academic year from tutors and students are analysed to examine how those involved made sense of and learned about HRD. Findings – Influences on the experience of an innovative HRD pedagogy are identified as: assessment processes and expectations; relationships and behaviours within the learning and teaching process; the experienced emotions of those involved; and the extent to which students feel clarity about what is expected. Research limitations/implications – The qualitative nature of the data and the focus on one particular UK institutional taught module limits the generalisability; in particular, the experience of full-time students or those involved in courses that focus exclusively on HRD outside of UK are not incorporated. Practical implications – Attention to assessment processes is an essential pre-requisite to any pedagogic innovation, as is effective and transparent team-working by tutors and careful thought about tutor behaviours in settings where experienced emotions and relationships directly affect the inovative process. Originality/value – The inherent tension between the constructivist and exploratory HRD curriculum and the requirement for “performative clarity” in HRD pedagogy is explored. Experienced emotions and relationships are shown to mediate a student-centred and critically reflexive HRD pedagogy, something that is currently insufficiently recognised in much of the literature.