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Appreciative Inquiry in Schools?

Appreciative Inquiry is an action research method with a focus on strengths, which has been recognised as an effective way to initiate change and innovation in organisational systems. Traditionally used by practitioners within business, processes involved in Appreciative Inquiry are now being increasingly recognised and used in the education sector.

Appreciative Inquiry involves consultation and collaboration with organisational stakeholders in producing, evaluating and embedding interventions, conducted with the intention of devolving responsibility for intervention back to the organisation.

What makes Appreciative Inquiry different from a garden-variety review is that it aims to appreciate the strengths of an organisation using a guided inquiry process. It's a way of starting by acknowledging those merits that may otherwise never see the light of day. This serves as a basis to capitalise on and build on what’s working well and channel it into positive future directions.

An obvious advantage for change-weary educators is that rather than indicating yet another way we should change, Appreciative Inquiry starts by recognising the brilliance, talent, strength and effectiveness of what you're already doing. Appreciative Inquiry highlights those behaviours and practices that are serving well, and provides a platform to highlight, promote, and normalise those practices for the whole organisation.

Four principles guide the Appreciative Inquiry process:

1) that the inquiry begin with appreciation of the best of the system,

2) that the inquiry is applicable to the system and validated in past actions, (these two principles are often referred to as ‘Discovery’)

3) that the inquiry is provocative, creating a compelling and inviting picture of the future, (this principle has been called the ‘Dream’ phase) and finally,

4) that the inquiry is collaborative in design (Design) and execution (‘Delivery’) (Bushe & Kassam, 2005).

Given the four ‘D’ words that can summarise the model, the full AI process has been coined as the ‘4D’ Model (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005).

Appreciative Inquiry is both a way of assessing and an intervention. It is a particularly good fit for schools seeking to promote and build staff and student wellbeing.

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