The power of Action Learning Sets for Wellbeing Leads in Wales

Leonie Hurrell discusses how wellbeing leads in Wales can feel more connected and support each other through Action Learning Sets.

Articles / 3 mins read

There’s a reason the old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ has been around for centuries, more effective problem solving happens when you combine resources in talent, experience, knowledge and passion.

Our Action Learning Sets (ALS) for school wellbeing leads in Wales involves meeting as a group with the specific intention of solving common challenges. The main aim of an ALS is to come away with a set of realistic actions or steps that will help to solve or understand the issues at hand.

In an ALS we do things differently. The learning shared is agenda free, trustworthy and confidential. Working in an ALS provides not only moral support, it also provides you with your own innovative collective think tank.

What are Action Learning Sets?

Professor Reginald Revans developed ALS in the mid-1940s. He wrote extensively about them in his 1983 book, "ABC of Action Learning."

The idea behind them is that adults learn best when they can talk with one-another, reflect, and plan. Revans’ ALS cycle is illustrated and explained below:

Action Learning Cycle


A typical set will be structured as follows:

  • Before the meeting, each member will think about the school-based issues that they wish to bring to the set.
  • Members agree to set aside the necessary time for the meeting. It should be held in a space where they will be free from distraction.
  • The facilitator might remind set members of ground rules that were established during the formation of the set and may re-visit some of the key principles of the methodology if required.
  • There will be a check-in with the group, and those who had an opportunity to explore their issue in the previous set will be asked to report back to the rest of the set on their actions since the last meeting.
  • One of the members will then have an opportunity to have their “airtime”, which is usually 30- 40 minutes, which begins with them taking five to ten uninterrupted minutes to outline their current issue. The other set members will then ask questions of clarification, moving into reflective and analytical questions and towards the end of the time, questions about future action.
  • During this process, the facilitator may sometimes “pause” the set, in order to raise awareness on matters of process, e.g. if people are giving advice packaged as questions.
  • At the end of the airtime, the person presenting their issue will feedback on how they experienced the process and what learning may have taken place. Group members also comment on their observations and learning on both the process and content.
  • This process of airtime will be repeated for as many members of the set as is possible in the time available.
  • The meeting may be concluded with the completion of an action review sheet which aims to capture key learning points and action plans from the meeting. The facilitator will review the session with the group and share the success of collaborative learning.

What are the benefits of Action Learning Sets?

Being part of an ALS gives school wellbeing leads in Wales a confidential space for individual reflective learning and a chance to find creative ways to bring about change. Each session builds personal, as well as professional development, allowing you to see how others approach similar challenges.

Action Learning Sets are usually created with five to seven members and are carefully managed by a skilled facilitator. Each set commits to work together over a period of sessions where they build trust, support and accountability to the group where they can feed back the success of their learning and action.

The connection of working together is powerful and helps members feel supported and cared for, creating a community for deep and immersive learning experiences.

What challenges can I bring to Action Learning Sets?

Typically, the issues each presenter wants to bring is focussed on one of the following – a Project, a Person, or a Pattern of behaviour.  Common themes can often be related to challenges with implementing a new system or structure within a school, an issue with team engagement and performance or ways of working which we’d like to change and improve.

How can I join an Action Learning Set?

Action Learning Sets for wellbeing leads in Wales are funded thanks to support from Welsh Government, at no cost to you. Places are limited so sign up here now!

Leonie Hurrell facilitates Action Learning Sets for school wellbeing leads in Wales. Leonie is a former headteacher with over 15 years of senior leadership experience. Since completing her ILM coaching qualification in 2015, Leonie founded The Thinking Academy providing  ILM recognised coaching training and one to one coaching support in schools. She has worked as a freelance Educational Facilitator specialising in leadership development, learning culture, emotional wellbeing and coaching. She regularly supports aspiring headteachers on NPQ leadership programmes as an approved Coach and is an Associate for the charity Education Support, which supports the mental health of education staff across the UK.

Action Learning for Wellbeing Leads
Action Learning for Wellbeing Leads