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An A-Z of adult learning at Roffey Park 1

An A-Z of adult learning at Roffey Park Institute

At Roffey Park Institute we’ve dedicated the last 75 years to be at the forefront of dialogic and group learning approaches. But what does ‘dialogic’ actually mean? Here is a brief guide to that and some of the other terms we use to describe adult learning.

Action learning sets

This is where small groups of peers explore each other’s challenges at work through listening, powerful questions and dialogue. Similar to group coaching, action learning sets are great for building trust and overcoming challenges. Many managers and leaders also find that it helps to chat about how their learning is landing in the real world of work.   


Blended learning uses technology to complement traditional classroom-based instruction – extending and deepening the learning experience. At Roffey Park we believe that all adult learning will be blended from now on, giving learners the freedom to learn when, where and how they want.


In our programmes, we take a ‘context first, content second’ approach. This means that learning starts with you: your role, your organisation, your challenges, your goals. Our sessions are designed to spark insight rather than fill you with knowledge (although we do suggest lots of useful models and tools!).


This means learning through dialogue and is one of our key foundation stones. Consultant William Isaacs has defined dialogue as a conversation in which people think together in a relationship. It’s well known that two heads are better than one, and we believe that thinking together creates improved quality of thought, discussion and learning.

Leading with Impact 2


This is the first step in our new learning journey, where we ask you to define your areas of focus and involve your colleagues. In addition, engagement is important when you attend one of our face-to-face or online programmes. We want each session to be relevant and meaningful, and for you to take a full and active role in your learning.


We define facilitation as ‘helping the progress of a group towards its goals’. Our faculty members are highly skilled at facilitating diverse groups of adult learners. Furthermore, they are specialists at making things easy (this is the literal meaning of the word ‘facilitate’).

Group dynamics

The term group dynamics was coined by German sociologist Kurt Lewin in the 1940s and has been a guiding principle at Roffey Park since its inception. We remain endlessly fascinated by the roles and behaviours people take on in groups and how leaders can impact (positively or negatively) the dynamic of the group they lead.

Our Silent Saviours: Celebrating the Power of Trees this National Tree Week 7


Our base in the UK is just a few miles outside of Horsham in Sussex. this is a place to reconnect, re-energise and re-socialise. Our clients tell us that there is something about our venue and the setting in St Leonard’s Forest that makes their time with us especially memorable.


We believe that all adult learning should have a direct and measurable impact at work. By using our innovative ‘impact tool’ to gather feedback we hope to show the impact of learning on individuals, teams and entire organisations.


Whether you use an app on your phone or take the classic pen and paper approach, keeping a journal can be a great way to pause and reflect. All of our Open Programmes include a PULSE journal (see P), where you’re asked a series of questions that help to chart your progress.

Knowledge sharing

We believe that everyone has valuable insights to share and that our role is to draw these out in a group setting. We are also committed to being thought leaders in our field. Our Knowledge and Resource Hub has handy overviews of Management, Leadership and Organisational Development as well as a lively blog.

Diagram showing Roffey Park's learning journey

Learning journey

We see learning as a lifelong journey rather than a series of one-off interventions. The journey on our Open Programmes has four key stages. These are: Engage, Workplace Practice and Development, Connect and Reflect and Change and Grow.  


This is a partnership between individuals for the purposes of learning and growth. Usually, one is more experienced than the other and offers guidance, encouragement and support. A mentoring relationship is also a great example of ‘live learning’ in organisations. This is because mentors and mentees face real-time challenges and opportunities.

Navigator forums

These regular forums offer opportunities to learn, network and exchange ideas with an international audience of peers. Each session focuses on either leadership, management, HR or organisational development. They are aimed at creating the best possible workplaces for human relationships to flourish.


These are practical things you will be able to do as a result of attending one of our programmes. One outcome that all our courses share is for you to be able to navigate the new, constantly changing, world of work with greater confidence.


Our signature learning framework puts you at the centre of your learning journey (through regular ‘PULSE checks’). PULSE is an acronym, and stands for Plot, Unlock, Lever, Signify and Embed.


What makes a powerful question? How can questions help people to learn? What kinds of questions should you be asking at work?


Everything we do at Roffey Park is underpinned by over 75 years of research. Recently this has included topics such as Personal Resilience, Dialogic Organisation Development and Compassionate Leadership.


Your stakeholders are the people who have a vested interest in your success at work. They could be your peers, your line manager, your direct reports or even your clients. On our new learning journey (see L), we hope that your stakeholders will act as ‘champions’ of your development.


Trust is the glue that holds groups together. In our survey on the lived experience of trust, we identified eight elements that create a climate of trust. These are: demonstrating trust, being consistent, demonstrating vulnerability, sticking to commitments, being transparent, being personal, appreciating others and listening well.

Realising Your Personal Power


We believe that a key part of adult learning is understanding yourself. What matters to you? Which kind of leader are you or do you want to be? What would you like your legacy to be? Developing your self-understanding can help you to be more intentional about the way you show up at work.


Since the pandemic, many of our live sessions have moved to the virtual space. We also have a digital platform with resources to support you on your learning journey. Our aim is to offer a consistent and high-quality experience however and whenever you learn with us.


Since it was founded over 75 years ago Roffey Park Institute has focused on the well-being of all at work. Our original vision was crafted just after the Second World War. The intention was to act as a ‘residential Rehabilitation Centre to help return workers to full-time productivity.’

Xperiential learning

Experiential learning (OK, I cheated on this one!) means learning by reflecting on doing. This is a key principle in all of our programmes. The idea of learning from experience goes back to at least Aristotle. However, it has been popularised more recently by theorists such as David Kolb and his Experiential Learning Model.


As we say on our website – it’s not about us, it’s about you. We don’t offer you what you don’t want or need. Instead, we focus on enabling the behavioural change you need to see at work.


At Roffey Park, we believe that people need to be challenged in order to learn. In this, we follow the Learning Zone Model (Senninger) which proposes three zones. They are comfort, learning (or growth) and panic. Stepping out of your comfort zone can feel daunting, so we aim to create supportive learning environments where it feels safe to do this.

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