Action Learning and Learning OrganizationLO29273

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/08/02

Replying to LO29268 --

Dear Organlearners,

Dianne Ball <> writes:

>Would anyone know of references that link action learning
>to the learning org? The concepts are related, & I'd be
>pleased to hear the views from members of this group re
>theoretical relationships between the two.
>Kind regards from a busy, almost-completed PhD student
>in sunny Sydney

Greetings dear Dianne,

Here in Pretoria, South Africa, we had four days of cold, overcast weather
which ended late yesterday afternoon in a cloud burst. It is most unusual
for this time of the year. I wonder what it means.

For the benefit of fellow learners. Action Learning (AL) became popular in
the early seventies after the publication of a book by prof Reginald
Revans on the topic. He explained that it is more than tricky and
time-consuming to communicate an idea by word and by argument when the
central quality of that idea is that verbal exchanges are themselves
extremely poor at communication. He proposed that AL may, in essence, be
no more than learning by doing, but it is learning by posing fresh
questions rather than copying what others have already shown to be useful.

Some people have defined AL as a process that enables people to solve real
problems, or work on real projects, while simultaneously focusing on
learning from the experience in doing so. They identify six major
components in AL:- the group (4 to 8 members), the project , the
questioning process, the reflection process, the commitment to learning
and the facilitator (guardian, steward) of the AL. Consequently AL seems
to focus on the discipline Team Learning of a LO with a bit of the
discipline Mental Models in the picture too.

However, your question also made me think of the many "kinds of learning"
which i have encountered in my more than thirty years study of learning.
Here is a list which i can now think of. (Please try holding your breath
while reading through the list ;-)

authentic learning
accelerating learning
action learning
(complex) adaptive learning
adult learning
anticipatory learning
appreciative learning
celleration learning
cognitive learning
collaborative learning
competency-based learning
competitive learning
computer-based learning
concurrent learning
constant learning
continuous learning
cooperative learning
creative learning
double-loop learning
electronic learning
executive learning
experiential learning
high-impact learning
individual learning
inter-organizational learning
inter-partner learning
leading learning
managerial learning
mechanistic learning
organisational learning
outcome-based learning
parenthetic learning
programmed learning
reflective learning
self-directed learning
rote learning
situated learning
stategic learning
total-quality learning
transformational learning
triple-loop learning
virtual learning
virtuous learning

Add the many "kinds of training" described and the list will almost

Some of these "kinds of learning" have few supporters while others (like
action learning) are becoming increasingly popular. However, what worries
me deeply is that the act of learning becomes broken in so many pieces
that few will be able to put it back again. I firmly believe in terms of
wholeness there is but one "act of learning". I myself often qualify it as
"authentic learning", but i realise the futility of this in terms of such
a huge list of "kinds of learning".

In my opinion action learning came about because of a sensitivity to
the essentiality liveness ("becoming-being"). It is one of the 7Es
(seven essentialities of creativity). Wholeness ("unity-associativity"),
for example, is another one of the 7Es. The following "kinds of
learning" listed above show a sensitivity to wholeness:-
collaborative learning
cooperative learning
inter-organizational learning
inter-partner learning
organisational learning
In fact, it is possible to classify most of the "kinds of learning" listed
above under one or other of the 7Es. However, tearing the act of
learning apart because of a sensitivity to one of the 7Es will do it no
good. Just like in creativity, all these 7Es are essential to learning.

>Also, there used to be a list-serve for action research
>a few years ago. I've been looking on the web but I
>can't find a current active listserve. Does anyone know
>of one please?

Perhaps the following is still active
< >

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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