Evaluation of impact of action learning on a social worker’s critically reflective practice

We have a partnership with Skills for Care to develop a sustainable resource for social work employers across England through training action learning facilitators, so that they could then use action learning methodologies to support the envelopment of NQSWs during their ASYE.  To achieve this, we designed two new training programmes in Action Learning Facilitation: an introductory level ILM Development Award which 700 social workers completed; and a more advanced fully accredited and internationally recognised ILM Level 5 Certificate qualification in Action Learning Facilitation which 70 social workers completed .

We have  a strong foundation in research-based practice. We regularly write evaluative and theoretical papers for publication and research purposes, so as to inform best practice.  Thus, on concluding the Skills for Care  programme, we were commissioned to conduct an evaluation into the impact of action learning on social worker’s critically reflective practice. We did this  by analysing data gathered by:

  1. The examination of reflective accounts written by 73 facilitators of critical action learning sets in their organisations
  2. Twelve group interviews with Critical Action Learning (CAL) sets and
  3. Eight telephone interviews with individual set members.

The evaluation report was published on the Skills for Care website:


After publication we evaluated the process and our work with Skills for Care, and as  a result we agreed to evaluate the emerging concept of ‘unlearning’ as a constituent part of critical reflection. As there was no funding specifically available it was  agreed that Skills for Care would allow access to information and people,  and pay out-of-pocket expenses, thereby crucially championing this further evaluation.

For our part we agreed to conduct the evaluation with some support in kind from Portsmouth and Lancaster Universities,  where two of our Associates work part time.

This evaluation resulted in a peer reviewed paper in the journal Human Relations(Sept 2015):


The results of the evaluation also extended the Skills for Care programme of developing facilitators of Critical Action Learning with a further 200 being trained., including members of the Skills for Care’s own  team as trainers,  thus building internal capacity.   A further indicator of the success is that Skills for Care and C-ALF   are about to embark together on a new programme of training for all Child and Families Social Work ASYE leads across England –  part of a wider development programme funded through the DfE.

Although complex in scope, through an open relationship and good will between the parties  the project was successfully completed to the agreed schedule. We operated within a fixed budget from Skills for Care and,  as described,  the second phase  we sought resources between the  parties to make it cost neutral.