Yeadon-Lee, Annie (2013) Action Learning: Understanding interpersonal relationships within learning sets. Journal of Management Development, 32 (9). pp. 984-994. ISSN 0262-1711

Purpose - This paper responds to calls for research into the use of action learning in management education (Hay, 2011). It reports on student experiences of action learning in a final year module for part time Master of Business Administration students. It focuses specifically on the development of an understanding of the interpersonal relationships that existed within those action learning sets; both positive and negative. The paper then discusses the subsequent impact those dynamics may have on the effectiveness of the action learning process.
Design/methodology/approach – An interpretivist philosophy underpins the research framework adopted in this paper. Data was captured by means of semi-structured questionnaires distributed at both the beginning and end of the module. The data was thematically analysed using open coding.
Findings – The paper used two contrasting views of the interpersonal relationships in action learning sets: Revans’ (1982) ‘comrades in adversity’ and Vince’s (2004) ‘adversaries in commonality’ as a framework for discussion. It found that various interpersonal dynamics existed within the sets, which in this case, had the ability to influence individual satisfaction and the overall effectiveness of the set. Originality/value - The findings provide insights, via participant voice, into aspects of interpersonal relationships within action learning sets. In particular, the politics and emotions that occur within the learning sets, whilst considering the subsequent impact on both participant satisfaction and the effectiveness of action learning sets.

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