Action learning – a political affair

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Action learning (AL) has seen great success in the West as it provides a way of developing emotionally, intellectually, and socially in which individuals work collectively (in groups) by reflecting over the taken-for-granted assumptions to solve real-world problems. While reflection is a key tenet of AL as it provides a way to question those assumptions, less attention has been given to when it’s undertaken collectively, or ‘in public’, in non-Western cultural contexts. An outline of a theory of reflective practice that teases out its psychological and political impact is noticeable in the works of Raelin (2001), Reynolds (1999), and Reynolds and Vince (2004) but empirical studies in the global South which examine its implications are largely scarce. I wish to advance this dialogue by focusing on AL’s reflective practice from a collective perspective, as a political act, in a non-Western context, which perhaps demands a deeper understanding of how reflection exposes and reinforces deep-seated power relations. It is my aim to question the assumptions underpinning not AL’s reflection but also my own practice in failing to understand the localized production of experience in a given socio-political, cultural and historical context. In so doing, I argue for enriching AL, including critical AL (CAL), in considering the local positioning of those involved in the AL process, to enhance their agency in negotiating power relations which continuously shape AL group, or set, interactions. This essay draws on an empirical case of using AL on the Pakistani MBA (see Mughal, 2021; Mughal et al. 2018; Mughal, 2016 for more details), as an example to problematize the act of public reflection from an embodied perspective, to unearth the politics of reflective practice and the primacy of individual positionality during the learning process.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Specialist publicationAction Learning: Research and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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