Action Learning

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What is Action Learning?

(see also the article in Wikipedia

Learning in Action is a form of self-regulated-learning, but with a support group at hand and guided by (if you want the guidance) experienced permaculture designers. 

 It is probably the most appropriate way to support each stage of the cycle of transition towards a more sustainable way of living. 

 Action learning is a form of supported self-learning, only you are not alone in this process, you do it accompanied by a small community with this purpose, learning to give and receive good support.

 The conventional educational model 

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 The learning model used in our schools and universities is this: It is a linear process, also summarized as "open head, fill head with information, close head". 

 A big error that we make, when we try to change this model (which many perceive as oppressive & offensive to intelligence & human creativity), is to replicate the form but with a different content. 

 For eg. the "Information & Abstract Concepts" are substituted with more 'practical' concepts (for eg. showing how something is done), or they are removed altogether (going directly to Exercises for Practice). The result is that people learn how to copy something, & instead of replicating the answers in an exam, they replicate recepies in practice. 

 Changing forms (the packaging) but not the contents is a typical pattern in the 'destructo-culture': very often the 're-packaging' permits to maintain enough confusion so that things remain essentially the same, including for the people who really want changes. 

 To give one example: in supermarkets, thanks to the huge resources that are sunk in the publicity industry, they sell the same product (eg. sugared water with colourings & bubbles) under 57 different names, looks & psychological reactions. & this does not only happen at the food level: these types of things are happening at the level of medicine, psychology & education, also. 

 The illusion that we have the freedom to choose amongst many options allows us to stay comfortable in the same prisons, without fights or rebellions, whilst - often - we ignore or despise what would really break our patterns. 

 One essential ability to develop for permaculture designers / systemic thinkers, is the ability to see patterns, that is to see the content & not let oneself be fooled by appearances. 

 It is particularly vital now, in these times of great change, to foster this ability if we don't want to reproduce old schemes in new 'eco'-shapes.

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 ...translation to be continued

article by Stella
(rest of article here in spanish)

See Attached doc ActionLearningInBrief   
& a Teaching Permaculture article by Stella

What is Action Learning?

It is the fundamental concept that governs how we teach.

It is the most direct way to learn to create PermaCulture, & the method is based in the work of many radical educators whom we have now compiled in our online Designers Manual > Learning.

Action learning is a more rigorous & supported form of self-directed learning: you aren't alone in this process, it is done accompanied by a small community with this purpose, that includes very experienced tutors & activists, learning to give & receive good support, & to keep to the very high levels of integrity that are required of this science, that is so important that we don't allow to dilute right now.

Living in a Radically Inter-Connected Way

We could say that 'the university of life', in the same way as the design cycle, and of the learning cycle, has an ascending spiral shape - we need to actively do the work of each stage of the cycle in order to move up to the following level of learning, understanding & wisdom.

Native peoples (the only human cultures that approximate to living in a sustainable way, & all are - or were - ongoing experiments) are perfectly connected to their physical surroundings because they are cultures based on action-learning, which is diametrically opposed to the disconnected emphasis which characterizes our educational system.

Part our logo represents the spiral motif which is found in so many aboriginal art forms all over the planet - & represents, on one hand our respect for peoples & cultures native to our own bioregions, & on the other, the global connection between all sustainable cultures.

In order to Create a Solar Economy

These native cultures were also based in "harvesting only sunshine" (solar energy - a fundamental base & permacultural saying), that is, in the art of sustainability, or of "using what there is", within natural limits, working with a profound knowledge of the environment & the specific local conditions, without fighting against the laws of nature, but applying a commitment to studying them and living in a relationship of with gratitude & respect towards them, and the immense richness they offer us.



It's about Re-Learning to Play

Action Learning is basically our natural way of learning & relating to our environment - when children do it, we call it 'playing'.

It includes a lot of fun & laughter, as well as very serious moments, some painful times, some exciting periods & also meditative & preoccupied times.  & lots of experimentation.

It consists in keeping a clear interest focus (the centre of the spiral) & taking each of the little steps that need to be taken in order to put into practice these ideals (the harmonic sequence of rainbow colours/ rays), so learning in a deep way, 'for real'.

All a cyclical processes, & if we understand the natural patterns that govern them, & something of their periodicity, we could use them with much greater effectiveness. 

  • In the case of   the scientific process, the sequence (one form of active learning) consists in observation > formulating an hypothesis > prediction > experimentation > observation; 
  • in the case of   permaculture design, we say that it consists of: observing > thinking / reflection > design > implement > observe again; 
  • in the case of   action learning, it consists of: doing project work > observing the effects > check how the theory fits > design next steps;  
  • in the case of  creativity in general, it consists of discover > dream > design > deliver

The Classes are one Part 

The classes that are offered in the programme of each course only pretend to accompany one in one of the basic cycles of learning in PermaCulture: the 'black paw' that you can see inside the logo is to remind us that the little steps, in order to move forward the theory & continue with a real action-learning, have to be done by YOU.

But we do all that we can in order to support you in this journey, encouraging support groups & continuous contact during (& also after, if you wish) the curse with the other participants, as well as the tutors.

Action learning is characterized by active & mutual support (we also teach the tools to learn to do this in a more effective way).

& Difficulties are ...

simply the BIGGER STEPS 

Possibly the most difficult thing about Action Learning is to re-learn to 'do' with our own hands, think & act logically but at the same time honoring our feelings, using our imagination all the while; letting ourselves learn with our whole body, & launching ourselves into adventure by trying totally new things.    This can be very uncomfortable for the majority of us, as comfort-seeking is possibly the strongest pattern in the Destructo-Culture - & the one that most enslaves us.  There are others. 

The grayest or most painful parts are often also the greatest learning opportunities.  You have the opportunity of doing (& support others in doing) a radical learning experience: you choose in every moment how much you want to do & when, but you will be able to overcome the greatest challenges with the support & closeness of your colleagues & travel partners.

The Practice (praxis) 

All that is taught during a Certificate course can be put into practice immediately in your life, in any circumstance that you find yourself (with or without access to land, with or without own home, with or without money or material resources, etc.).    & it only works if it's put into practice.  So the practicals consist in making reality in our daily life what we learn on the course.

We will do some exercises during the course in order to practice some of the techniques & tools, but the main practice that we do during the Certificate courses is design practice (as it is a design course).

During the course we realize TWO design practicals:

  1. One of a personal project (it can be simply your home, or your family, or your employment ideas or the garden of a friend) &
  2. one on a group project - & there are many we are already doing that we can invite you in, if you don't have a local one.

Pioneers & Thinkers

There have always been great pioneers & radical thinkers in the field of education, in the Pioneers & Thinkers page we explore some of them - note they are all talking about Action Learning, in different ways.

Mind Maps

Mind maps require us to be active & creative in relating information & taking notes, they interrelate ideas in non-linear & open ways & so can serve as great tools for a more active learning method & also for practicing systems thinking.

Systems Thinking

Action-Learning is a much better way of learning about systems and how they work, because it is a systemic way of learning.

We now (as humans in the west) very much need to systems thinking if we are to resolve some of the most pressing problems of our times.

Permaculture is a systems science, and in the chapter on Systems Thinking we are compiling resources on what this means in more detail.


The core of what we are trying to achieve with Permaculture Design is sustainable human societies, and there is often confusion around this term, in particular around the phrase "Sustainable Development" ... so in the page on Sustainability we try to clarify what this is about, and in the Local Agenda 21 page we see in more detail one of the historic international agreements made in 1992 which aim to create the planetary cooperation necessary to make sustainability a reality.

Video: Loving what you do

is the essence of action-learning

Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks