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A protean practice? perspectives on the practice of action learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Purpose - The purpose of the paper is to assess the extent to which these practitioners' perspectives and practices match Willis's (2004) conception of a Revans' 'gold standard' of action learning. Design/methodology/approach - This study adopts a qualitative design and methodology based on interviews and the collection of cases or accounts of practice, and upon the analysis of both. This exploratory study draws on 24 cases of academic practice of action learning within Higher Education (HE) institutions in the UK and 21 cases drawn from practitioners in the UK National Health Service. Findings - Whilst action learning is shown to be a context sensitive and protean methodology, the findings demonstrate that approaches to practice are not as divergent as anticipated. On the evidence of this study, many aspects of action learning practice remain rooted in the principles originally established by Revans, sometimes termed "Revans' classical principles" (RCP). Research limitations/implications - The limitations of this study stem from its exploratory nature using small samples in the NHS and HE sectors. Nonetheless, the results could stimulate further empirical research on approaches to the practice of action learning in a range of other contexts. Practical implications - The study provides a basis on which practitioners can critically reflect on their own professional practices, and a means to review their own purposes in making use of action learning in their work situations. Originality/value - The study extends earlier research by confirming the persistence of Revans Classical Principles in present practice across two professional practice contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-743
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Training and Development
Volume37
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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