Pedagogy: From the Classroom to the Field
Action Learning students embody the MIT motto “mens et manus” by integrating classroom learning to address real management opportunities and challenges. Depending on the lab’s context, students work with a certain organizational profile; these include startups, domestic players, multinational corporations, and non-profits located in the greater Boston region, across the USA, and around the globe. MIT Sloan is committed to offering a diverse portfolio of courses such that students get to experience Action Learning more than once, unlike a capstone opportunity. These elective courses address a wide variety of regional, functional, and interdisciplinary subjects, including analytics, entrepreneurship, healthcare, operations, and sustainability, among many others. As students solidify their learning by taking on their hosts' business challenges, the organizations benefit from students’ fresh perspectives and actionable recommendations.
Students get a rare first-hand look at a wide array of growth and operational challenges facing organizations, markets, and regions. They manage projects in unfamiliar work environments, applying a range of management practices; a valuable experience that strengthens sensemaking, collaboration, and adaptability. Throughout this immersive learning experience, students reflect on themselves both professionally and personally, not only to better assimilate management theory and practice, but to be intentional about their leadership journey.
Our Leadership in Action Learning
For over two decades, MIT Sloan has taught Action Learning labs guided by the school’s mission: “to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice." In line with that mission, the goal of Action Learning is to immerse students in real-life business management situations to equip them with problem-solving skills, adaptability, and a team mindset that they can apply to their own organizations.
In the time that Sloan has been teaching Action Learning, students and faculty have worked with over 2,500 host organizations. Together with their hosts, students have worked on projects that have left a lasting impact, including but not limited to:
- Helping entrepreneurial ventures scale
- Discovering new market opportunities
- Identifying efficiencies in operations
- Designing data-driven decision-making models for a variety of business challenges
- Responding to open-ended problems
Our Action Learning Model Consists of Five Learning Objectives:
LEARNING IN A COMPLEX REAL WORLD ENVIRONMENT: Students work with companies to solve real challenges they are facing. This means that they are immersed in a real-time problem solving situation where there are many stakeholders and possible solutions involved.
STRUCTURING AND SOLVING PROBLEMS, DEVELOPING PROJECT MANAGEMENT SKILLS: In order to work on the business challenges proposed by their hosts, students need to learn how to take initiative, break down the project into specific parts, and obtain what they need to carry it out.
COLLABORATING EFFECTIVELY IN TEAMS: Probably one of the most crucial aspects of Action Learning is working in teams. Students have to work together and mesh their skills in order to meet the goals of the host organization. Mentors are there to help teams navigate through their experience.
REFLECTING FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH: In order to truly grow as professionals, students take the opportunity to reflect throughout the Action Learning lab, examining themselves as teammates, evaluating their work ethic, and coming up with ways to improve their work.
LEARNING TO LEAD: By seeing leaders at work and collaborating with both their host organizations and teammates, students learn what it means to lead.