action learning


Are you looking for new ways to approach challenges and barriers in your PhD research? Does your research leave you feeling isolated and lonely? Do you struggle with procrastination, a short attention span, and a lack of motivation when studying? Are you worried about your relationship with your supervisors, the culture in your office or lab, or the general pressures or demands of postgraduate life? Action Learning may be able to help you find solutions to these anxieties.

Action Learning is an inspiring approach to academic and professional development that offers a small group of peers a structured and reflective way to explore the issues they face. Through reflection, we gain a deeper understanding; and this enables us to meet the challenges we face and manage the process of finding solutions more effectively. Through working in Action Learning Sets, we bring together people from within the same organisation to work through issues, share ideas and challenge perceptions in a trusting, supportive environment. Results are tangible and long lasting.


“Action Learning is based on the relationship between reflection and action … where the focus is on the issues/problems that individuals bring and planning future action with the structured attention and support of the group. Put simply, it is about solving problems and getting things done.”

- Fry, Ketteridge & Marshall, A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (2000) Kogan Page.


Action Learning can support you by:

  • Helping you to step outside of your day-to-day pressures, enabling you to reflect and view your work from a fresh perspective.
  • Offering an open, probing mind and an ability to listen and question underlying assumptions in a respectful and safe manner.
  • Using active listening, questioning and sharing feedback to increase empathy and understanding of self and others.
  • Learning to resist offering advice.
  • Giving you the opportunity to develop ideas and ways forward, see connections and hear about others’ experiences.
  • Providing the right level of support and challenge as the issue owner seeks to find their own solution.
  • Helping you to build trusted networks and partnerships across different parts of the university and beyond, as well as giving you an opportunity to (re)connect with other postgraduate researchers.
  • Offer a space conducive to exploring and progressing opportunities and new ways of thinking, encouraged by the construtive support of your peers and, importantly, away from the intensity of research and writing.

PGR Action Learning Day - 4th November 2019, 10-4pm!

Would you benefit from structured space and time to develop your ideas and solve current academic/professional challenges?

Would you like to be part of an inspiring, motivational, supportive, and action-focused network, run by a professionally trained facilitator?

This one day workshop, facilitated by Andrea Rippon, will invite postgraduate researchers to look at the opportunities and challenges that Action Learning Sets will bring to the individual and their research. The Action Learning Set participants (and fully trained facilitators) will meet together for a full day to get an overview of what the process of Action Learning is. We will begin by outlining the stages that make up an Action Learning Set and establish the Ground Rules under which we intend to operate. There will be some skills practice, so we can get the most out of our Action Learning Set – this will include Active Listening, Open Questioning, and Challenging. You will understand your role and the role of the Facilitator during the Action Learning Set and in the Group Process (reflecting on the learning/other after the Action Learning Set is over). Most of the day will be devoted to participating in a facilitated Action Learning Set, so that you can experience the opportunities and challenges that they pose. After this, you will be invited to commit to further Action Learning Sets, where your Facilitator will liaise with set members about dates and organise room bookings, etc.

The session will be taking place on Monday 4th November 2019 from 10-4pm. It is a PPD module worth one credit. You can be booked through the PPD catalogue.

This session is intended to utilise and develop a number of individual skills, including:

  • Active Listening – for meaning and feelings
  • Reflecting Back – what was said, using the issue owner’s words or a summary
  • Open Questioning – how, where, when, which, who, what?
  • Challenging – without animosity, with accuracy and in a concrete way
  • Emotional Intelligence - including self-awareness, empathy, motivation, and self-regulation
  • Productive and Effective feedback - impartially aiding problem solving
  • Strategies for Managing Stress

If you have any questions, please contact Bryony Porter, or follow Postgraduate(su) on Facebook and Twitter.

We hope to see you at our PGR Action Learning Day!