Action Learning


Action Learning 

Courage is researching and piloting innovative approaches to support the prevention, intervention and cultural change around mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers (PGR) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). It is a joint project by UEA, uea(su), University of Suffolk and Norwich Biosciences Institutes. The project includes activities led by both students and staff and involves a commitment of time and resource from across the University. The findings from Courage will provide recommendations for the University and the wider sector.

There are eight strands to the project and Strand B focuses on resilience training and wellbeing as part of personal and professional development for PGRs. As part of this, we are scoping the effectiveness and feasibility of Action Learning for PGRs at UEA.  

We would like to offer a fantastic opportunity for UEA staff, to find out more about Action Learning and if desired, be trained in Action Learning group facilitation skills.

There are two training opportunities coming up in March. More information can be found on this page or by clicking here

Please contact Bryony Porter, PGR Mental Health Coordinator, ( to register your space or for more information.   

1.An Introduction to Action Learning with Andrea Rippon

Monday 4th March 1-4pm, (Doctoral College Training Suite, Constable Terrace) (25 Spaces)


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 Sets work best when they are facilitated and in line with this, we would like to identify and train potential facilitators. If this might be you, then please come to this workshop to explore what an Action Learning Set is, with a view to volunteering yourself as a facilitator.

What will the workshop involve?

We will learn from experience, setting up our own Action Learning Set and exploring what it’s like to be a problem/issue owner and participant.  We will begin by outlining the stages that make up an Action Learning Set and we’ll 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). There will be an opportunity to experience an Action Learning Set, where 2 volunteers will be asked to bring an issue/problem that the rest of the group can work with (whilst the rest of the group observes).  The set will be facilitated by Andrea Rippon. 

The final half hour will be set aside for questions and you will be offered the opportunity to commit to becoming an Action Learning Set facilitator by joining a Group Facilitation Skills training day.


2. Group Facilitation Skills with Andrea Rippon

Monday 25th March 10am-4pm (Doctoral College Training Suite, Constable Terrace) (20 Spaces)


To create an environment where individuals feel able to contribute ideas; where they feel safe enough to take risks; where space is shared equally (rather than dominated by the few), requires the skills of a good facilitator. The facilitator ‘holds’ a group, encouraging movement and energy so that participants feel free to speak, listen, support and challenge. The facilitator will use skills that allow the group to be self-directing and self-managing; and this will encourage feelings of empowerment and ownership amongst participants. It can motivate individuals and encourage better Action Learning Sets.

What will the training involve?

The group will ‘learn by experience’. We will use ‘our’ Action Learning Set to understand how other Sets work. There will be some tutor led presentation, a lot of self-reflection, learning from listening and responding to others’ experience; and also giving and receiving of feedback. Detailed handouts will be given and there will be a discussion around some of the ‘theories’ relating to groups. 

The aim of this workshop is to develop the core skills needed to successfully facilitate groups. These skills will embody an attitude of wanting to understand and accept others, whilst remaining authentic in the role as facilitator. We will use a method of enquiry that is based on an appreciation of what is, and what could be.

Participants will:

  • Understand better, groups and how individuals in groups work
  • Explore strategies for handling difficult situations and strong emotions
  • Develop skills which will enable them to facilitate successful Action Learning Sets
  • Increase their self and social awareness, which will transform the way they work with groups

3. PGR Action Learning Sets: Opportunities and Challenges

Date and location tbc. 10am – 4pm


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. Part of the workshop will involve opportunities to experience an Action Learning Set and as a trained facilitator you will have the chance to practice your learned skills, overseen by Andrea. At the end, attendees will be offered the opportunity to commit to joining an Action Learning Set in the future, that would be facilitated by you, and future dates for the Set to meet will be agreed.

Your time

The Courage Project will provide a free introductory session and for those that wish to be trained in Action Learning facilitator skills, a free 1 day course (lunch and refreshments provided) will provide in-depth and thorough training with an experienced Action Learning group facilitator and trainer. You will also have the opportunity to practice your Action Learning group facilitation skills, with the support of your experienced trainer before facilitating a set independently. The Action Learning Set will likely meet 4-6 times over a year. The Courage project has built-in in-kind contributions from all faculties, therefore as well as receiving facilitator training skills, time given can be linked to in-kind contributions to Courage on the basis of supporting research, community development and embedding wellbeing in the university culture.


Register or find out more information

Please contact Bryony Porter (Strand Lead and PGR Mental Health Coordinator) to register your space or for more information.