The thinking behind the action (learning): Reflections on the design and delivery of an executive management program

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to report on an action learning (AL) approach to curriculum design and delivery of a two-year part-time executive masters program, facilitated in part through a longitudinal work-based action research project. Program participants were a mix of mid- to senior managers operating in both the public and private sector and business owners, and all were in full-time employment. Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents findings relating to participant and tutor perspectives of the program design, structure, and content. It also chronicles an AL tutor initiative run in conjunction with the inaugural program delivery, established to provide a collegial approach to learner facilitation, and to enable a research informed model of practice. Findings: Findings suggest that the program allowed for greater action-reflection among and across all contributors (students, tutors, and program managers), and facilitated cross-pollination of AL perspectives, thus strengthening the interaction between practitioner and academic, and among academics themselves. Furthermore, the early involvement of tutors informed the work-based research project and larger AL program, and facilitated a matching of research interests between practitioner and tutor. Originality/value: These findings suggest that an action-based model of knowledge transfer and development offers significant learning benefits to those partaking in an executive development program, resulting in the following insights: executive needs better served using a learner-centric approach; problem-oriented work-based assessment affords theory–practice balance; there is evidence of action-reflection “contagion” among all contributors; and the presented AL cycle has potential value in the conceptualization of reflective action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Work-Applied Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2018


  • Action learning
  • Executive education programme design
  • Reflective practice


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