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Traditional approaches to teaching in higher education typically fail to prepare students with many of the skills they need to become the knowledge workers employers…
Traditional approaches to teaching in higher education typically fail to prepare students with many of the skills they need to become the knowledge workers employers expect them to be as graduates. Furthermore, successful students expect that the strategies they cultivated during their academic career will transfer to their professional career, only to be disappointed and frustrated when the traditional modes of student learning fail to bring them comparable levels of success. It is the position of this article that those teaching in higher education have an obligation to assist students in developing their knowledge, skills, and abilities, while also cultivating appropriate mindsets that will allow them to discover new approaches to enduring organizational challenges and develop novel solutions to tomorrow's problems. Action learning projects, where students work collaboratively to address a client's real-world organizational challenge through their concurrent learning and application of course content, offer one strategy particularly well suited to help educators fulfill this educational goal. After a brief history of action learning, the six elements of the Marquardt Model are discussed, in terms of both their critical features and the ways in which they support learning innovation. The next section describes the use of action learning cycles as the process by which students engage in the project and develop learning strategies accomplish the client's goal. The final section of the paper describes common constraints that students and instructors engaged in action learning projects encounter.