The Practical Primacy of Questions in Action Learning

  • Marilee G. Adams


The centrality of questions in action learning is fundamental for both theory and practice. Reg Revans, the principal pioneer of action learning, a scientist who made important contributions to the fields of management and organizational development, put the search for fresh questions and questioning insight at the core of action learning. He emphasized that questioning insight is the starting point and that people learn very effectively from and with each other, as distinguished from highly formal didactic approaches to learning. His focus was on “learning while doing,” with questions accelerating and deepening this process, which also includes self-questioning and reflection. One reflects on what has occurred or what is occurring (reflection in action), which allows one to harvest the learning.


Action Learning Conflict Relationship Transformative Learning Personal Conversation Effective Answer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, M. (2009) Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work, 2nd edition (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler/ASTD Press).Google Scholar
  2. Adams, M. (2010) Question Thinking: Theory and Practice (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler) (in press).Google Scholar
  3. Boshyk, Y. (ed). (2002) “Why Business Driven Action Learning?” in Action Learning Worldwide: Experiences in Leadership and Organizational Development, May (London/New York: Palgrave-Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press).Google Scholar
  4. Boshyk, Y. (2008) Personal conversation with Marilee Adams.Google Scholar
  5. Bray, J. N., Lee, J., Smith, L. L., and Yorks, L. (2002) Collaborative Inquiry in Practice: Action, Reflection, and Making Meaning (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage).Google Scholar
  6. Czajkowski, J. (2009) Personal conversation with Marilee Adams.Google Scholar
  7. Dilworth, R. L. (2008) Personal conversation with Marilee Adams.Google Scholar
  8. Dilworth, R. L. and Willis, V. J. (2003) Action Learning: Images and Pathways (Malabar, FL: Krieger).Google Scholar
  9. Goldberg, M. (1998a) The Art of the Question: A Guide to Short-Term, Question-Centered Therapy (New York: John Wiley & Sons).Google Scholar
  10. Goldberg, M. (1998b) “The Spirit and Discipline of Organizational Inquiry: Asking Questions for Organizational Breakthrough and Transformation”, Manchester Review, 3(3).Google Scholar
  11. Kramer, R. (2007/2008) “Leading Change through Action Learning”, Public Manager Journal, Winter.Google Scholar
  12. Marquardt, M. (1999) Action Learning in Action: Transforming Problems and People for World-Class Organizational Learning (Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black).Google Scholar
  13. O’Neil, J. and Marsick, V. J. (2007) Understanding Action Learning: Theory into Practice (New York: AMA) (Adult Learning Theory and Practice Book Series).Google Scholar
  14. Mezirow, J. (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A Guide to Transformative and Emancipator Learning (San Francisco/Oxford: Jossey-Bass).Google Scholar
  15. Postman, N. (1976) Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk: How We Defeat Ourselves By the Way We Talk and What We Do About It (New York: Delacorte Press).Google Scholar
  16. Revans, R. W. (1982) The Origins and Growth of Action Learning (Bromley, U.K.: Chartwell-Bratt).Google Scholar
  17. Revans, R. W. (1983) The ABC of Action Learning (Bromley, U.K.: Chartwell-Brat).Google Scholar
  18. Revans, R. W. (1989) The Golden Jubilee of Action Learning (Manchester: Manchester Business School).Google Scholar
  19. Weinstein, K. (1995) Action Learning: A Journey in Discovery and Development. London: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  20. Weinstein, K. (2008) Personal conversation with Marilee Adams.Google Scholar
  21. Willis, V. J. (2008) Personal conversation with Marilee Adams.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marilee G. Adams 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marilee G. Adams

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations