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What are the main features of CAL?

This article highlights key features that are expected when working with the Critical Action Learning process.

Now that you are familiar with the concept of critical action learning, you need to understand its main features to be able to apply it effectively within your organisational setting.

Trehan and Pedler (2009) highlight three main features of CAL:

  1. Partnership and engagement
  2. Recognition of practical knowledge
  3. Deliberation, reflection and transformation

Partnership and engagement

In critical action learning, learning sets and the learning community are key in creating collaborative relationship. This provides learning opportunities for the development of the skills needed for working in partnerships, networks and across organisational boundaries (Trehan and Pedler, 2009). This approach requires self-empowered personalities and group learning through questioning and reflection. This questioning of taken-for-granted assumptions is a key ingredient for working within collaborative learning communities (Trehan and Pedler, 2009).

Recognition of practical knowledge

A key aspect of critical action learning is that it provides the:… means through which the individual finds ways to learn about ‘oneself’ by resolving a work focused project, and reflecting on that action, and on oneself in the company of others similarly engaged. (Weinstein 2002: 6 cited by Trehan and Pedler, 2009: 39).

Deliberation, reflection and transformation

Boyd and Fales (1983, 110 cited by Trehan and Pedler, 2009: 39) define reflection as: > “… the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self and which results in a changed conceptual perspective”. This shows two important aspects in that reflection has a purpose and a consequence. The purpose would be to make sense of situations and the consequence relates to the fact that the sense making process results in a change of perception.

Reflect & Reply

Please comment on the question below.

Considering the main features of CAL, what do you think are some of the benefits and problems in applying this approach?


Trehan, K. and Pedler, M. (2009) Animating Critical Action Learning: Process-Based Leadership and Management Development, Action Learning: Research and Practice, 6(1), 35–49.

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Leadership Development with Action Learning

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