Development and sustainable impact the result of action learning journey 

21 February 2024   |  Story Leonie Bolleurs

action learning

Along with Prof Richard Teare (far right) are some of the workshop attendees, which consisted of a group of 15 students, academics, and community organisation leaders. 

The Directorate Community Engagement at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently hosted Prof Richard Teare, the President of the Global University of Lifelong Learning (GULL). During his visit, he presented a workshop on action learning.

GULL, established 17 years ago, offers lifelong learning opportunities for people in communities and workplace organisations around the world. It provides frameworks and awards in support of lifelong learning.

Prof Teare described what the process of action learning entails and how it differs from the notion of ‘training’. According to him, action learning occurs when people learn from each other, create their own resources, identify their own problems, and form their own solutions. He stated, “The process is so enriching that every learner is able to identify personal and life-transforming outcomes. These commonly include expressions of enhanced self-confidence, self-belief, renewal, enthusiasm for learning, a new sense of direction and purpose for career and life – along with news skills, insights, and the sense of being equipped for the future.”

The workshop, attended by a group of 15 students, academics, and community organisation leaders, had an element of self-directed development, according to Dr Karen Venter, Head of the Division of Service Learning at the University of the Free State (UFS). “Participants learned how action learning can enable self-directed personal and professional development,” she said.

Skills and leadership characteristics

“GULL pathways were also profiled to outline some of the innovative ways in which it can be used to facilitate continuous development aligned with professional certification. It offers three generic pathways, each with five levels (or certification points) leading to professional bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees,” explained Dr Venter.

I learned that action learning is a process for self-determined personal and professional development – the change starts with me developing myself and then sharing it with others”. – Action Learning Workshop attendee

“In practice, community leaders who have obtained one of these professional degrees can now become change agents for community development in their own community organisations, using the action learning pathway and certification offered by GULL,” she said.

Dr Venter added that a group of students from the UFS – the Active Community Citizens through Engaged Scholarship for Sustainability (ACCESS) group – embarked on a Professional Bachelor pathway certified by GULL last year. Not only did the group of 11 students successfully earn certification, including one Level Two certificate, five Level Three diplomas, three advanced diplomas, and one bachelor’s degree at the Engaged Scholarship Awards 2023, but they also developed a range of skills and leadership characteristics during the process. These include eco-brick making, vermiculture and gardening, eco-entrepreneurship, soap and candle making, and creative recycling, to name a few.

Furthermore, the pathway is underpinned by community-based research to drive initiatives of student structures towards implementing impactful community engagement in three clusters, namely sustainable environment, well-being, and social justice.

Addressing SDGs and embracing Vision 130

Lifelong action learning is one of the innovative approaches for the development of graduate attributes. In this light, the outcomes of not only the action learning workshop, but also the learning opportunities presented by GULL, align with the UFS Vision130. “Using action learning for bringing social change, students can address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and embrace the values of the UFS’ Vision130 – impact, care, excellence, sustainability, accountability, and social justice,” stated Dr Venter.

One of the attendees communicated the experience as follows: “I learned that action learning is a process for self-determined personal and professional development – the change starts with me developing myself and then sharing it with others.”

For further opportunities presented by GULL, visit the website here:


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