Conceptually, the action learning cycle (Figure: The action Learning Cycle) consists of four phases (Zuber-Skerritt, 2000).
The first phase of the cycle is to identify the problem which is relevant and is in the power of group to solve. It should be evident that the problem should be complex in nature and no opportunity for solution is readily available. Next, the group starts with the discussion with a intention to solve the problem. The questions rather than the individuals are given utmost importance, facilitating possible solution for the problem. Third, the group identifies the possible solution and implements it. In the final phase, the group looks back at the implemented solution and evaluates it.
(Marquardt, 1999) in his book ‘Action learning in action’, describes what he defines as the six key elements of action learning.

  1. A problem (project, challenge, opportunity, issue or task)
  2. An action learning group or team
  3. A process that emphasizes insightful questioning and reflective listening
  4. A resolution of taking action
  5. A commitment to learning
  6. A group facilitator

To fit the above elements in the action learning cycles, it could be considered that an action learning group/team tries to solve a problem (project, challenge) through a process of asking insightful questions and reflective listening. They identify an action and take a resolution to act upon it with a commitment to learning.
(Mumford, 1995) proposes the following essential elements for action learning:

  1. Learning should mean learning to take effective action
  2. Learning to take effective action involves actually taking action not just recommending action
  3. The action learning project must be significant to the learners themselves
  4. Learners learn best from one another