Action Learning Set Meetings

Learning sets meet every four or five weeks – for four or five times – to discuss real issues that members of the set are facing in their working lives. Most sets meet face to face but there are interesting developments in the use of technology such as Skype to support virtual meetings. Typically sets meet for a whole day so commitment and availability is important.

Within each set meeting all members will have a slot during which their issue is considered. A member will present his or her issue and its context; the other members of the set then help the presenter to clarify the issue and to develop ways of addressing it. This one-at-a-time focus on the presenters' issue helps them to identify actions; these will be implemented between meetings and the process and its consequences are then discussed at the next meeting.

The emphasis is on learning about action in real – and often powerful – situations. The discussions within the set must, therefore, be completely confidential to the set.

In addition to helping the issue-holder to address their issue, the process also gives the other set members valuable insights into other people's situations, and the opportunity to develop their own skills in clarifying, reflecting and questioning. Set members are not uncritical supporters of the presenter, their role is to challenge assumptions, to help the presenter check out reality, etc. It is not to provide counselling, or to advise or direct though the skills of being an effective set member do overlap with those of the counsellor and the critical friend. Above all, set members are most effective when they listen to understand and question to support new insight.