The role of Action Learning Facilitator is to manage the smooth running of the set, help the set develop ground rules for working together, develop members questioning, listening and reflection skills and ensure that the process, timings, principles of action learning and ground rules are adhered to.
Ideally the facilitator will not be involved in the questioning process so can focus on managing the process, although there may be times when it is appropriate that they also take on the role of set member to model the skills or to bolster numbers if the set is low in numbers.
A facilitator should be able to posses good ‘process’ skills, in other words be able to manage the action learning process, notice when it is not being kept to and bring members back on track. The facilitator should be able to spot and effectively manage any members who contribute little or conversely dominate the set or are disruptive.
Facilitators ideally should be trained in facilitation or coaching skills and should have the ability to develop the skills of set members to ask effective questions, give and receive effective feedback and listen.
In the early stages of running a set new to action learning a trained facilitator should take this role. However as the set matures and members develop their skills and get used to working with one another then other set members may start to develop their own facilitation skills so they can assume this role.
There are no hard and fast rules although one principle of action learning is that the process is timed to help ensure a focused discussion and also ensures that no one person takes up all the time.
30 – 40 minutes typically is an average time for an issue to be presented, questioned and addressed which can be broken down into the following stages:
The set does need to agree at the outset how rigidly it wants to stick with these timings and the role of action learning facilitator is to oversee this agreement. There are however times when members feel the need to spend longer clarifying a more complex issue before they can help the issue holder and sometimes longer is required to help the issue holder come to a conclusion.
The point of action learning that it is a timed process which helps makes efficient use of the time available and the danger of allowing too much flexibility is having a session which overruns and prevents other members having their own air time.
The only other time to build into the session is time out during the session where the action learning facilitator may want to stop the set to review the process and skills of set members especially in the early stages of a set.
The role of action learning facilitator is key to time management and the success of the group.
The Action Learning Handbook: Powerful Techniques for Education, Professional Development and Training by Anne Brockbank and Ian McGill (Paperback - 6 Nov 2003)
Action Learning: A Practical Guide for Managers by Krystyna Weinstein (Paperback - 16 Nov 1998)
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