Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Team Coaching and Action Learning

The Leadership Academy (http://www2.surrey.ac.uk/leadershipacademy/) held another successful event on 27th May, this on the theme of action learning. Designed and facilitated in collaboration with the International Foundation for Action Learning (http://www.ifal.org.uk/) the event explored definitions of action learning (the ‘classic’ Revans model compared with more flexible approaches) and included a number of experiential sessions.

One question which arose was: what is the difference between action learning and team coaching? Both, it would seem, are growing in popularity, but are they just different ways of describing the same thing? The answer which emerged from the event was probably not. In action learning, the role of the facilitator is to help the group give ‘space/air time’ to the person presenting their problem and to ensure that other members of the set ask open, insightful questions (not closed questions, or observations/opinions). The task of the set is focused on helping the presenter of the problem to gain insight into the problem and to formulate action. In team coaching, the facilitator’s role is that of coach. Here, the coaching conversation may be held with and between all members of the group, with the coach (rather than the set members) posing questions.

It is probable that both approaches offer powerful opportunities for learning. An interesting research question would be: does a combination of coaching and action learning work more effectively as a catalyst for learning than each intervention experienced separately?

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