What is Action Learning?

Learning is anything but fun and needs a lot of self-discipline? Not necessarily. Interactive and innovative forms of learning such as action learning contribute to learners’ motivation and gamify the educational process. In this article, we explain how this learning method works and why the action-oriented approach is so effective.

How does action learning work?

How does action learning work?

The British scientist and management consultant Reginald William Revans pioneered the use of action Learning1. He found that people learn best when they have to face specific challenges in mixed groups. Action learning is a method of learning through experience and is based on the principle of “learning by doing”. Sustainable learning effects are achieved through the combination of theory and practice. Action learning is actively used in school and university education, leadership development and project management.

Why is action learning so effective?

In action-based learning, participants deal with complex questions in small mixed groups. By actively listening and exchanging information in groups, they first work out solutions to a problem and apply the strategies. Participants learn to deal with new situations by analyzing problems from a theoretical perspective and testing the solutions they have developed in a risk-free environment.2

In addition, the method is used to improve the skills of working in small groups. The participants learn to deal with time-critical and complex topics and to develop creative solutions for successful strategies. This way, they learn to communication and are encouraged to critically examine the questions at individual and group level and learn to look at challenges from different perspectives.

The seminar facilitator also plays a crucial role in the action learning process. He leads the participants through the tasks, supports them in the learning process and encourages to reflect on the solutions found.3

How is the action learning method used?

Business simulations are an example of the action learning approach. The participants take on the management role of a business and learn to make management decisions in a gamified way under time pressure. They experience typical conflicts of interests up close and learn how to use business methods and information resources in a protected environment and how to deal with uncertainty in decision-making.

The participants work together on a problem solution and exchange ideas in a group. After each decision phase, a financial year is simulated and the participants see the immediate effects of their decisions. In the evaluation of the period results, the groups can reflect on their approach and adapt it for the further course of the simulation. Learning by doing, a typical element of the action learning method, can be implemented with the help of business simulations. Experience-based learning ensures that the participants gain a deeper understanding of business and thus a sustainable learning experience.


  1. Hauser. B (2012): Action Learning. Workbook mit Praxistipps, Anleitungen und Hintergrundwissen für Trainer, Berater und Facilitators
  2. WIAL (2017): What is Action Learning?, https://wial.org/action-learning
  3. Szabla et al. (2017): The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
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Learning with TOPSIM instead of an internship

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