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student appreciative enquiry

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago

Student Appreciative Enquiry - Kathy Jones - USSU


The University of surrey student had an integral part to play in the Appreciative Inquiry, which was conducted over March and April all over campus.  30 willing students were asked to be interviewers, each talking to 4 of their fellow students, and one member of academic staff each.  The students' union recruited, guided and debriefed these students, connecting them with their staff members and each other, and is still working on developing the ideas emerging from the Inquiry to improve the student experience at Surrey.  Below I have done my best to summarise an experience which cannot really be summarised, in the hope that the ethos behind what happened comes through loud and clear.


Appreciative Inquiry - my take on the basics


The process of AI was founded by David Cooperrider, who has spent much of his career studying management change and what causes change in organisations.  Positive change, to be exact.  The very basic idea behind having an Appreciative Inquiry, is that if people discuss what they are good at, or what they enjoy doing, they will feel good.  This good feeling is then translated into a dream of feeling good all the time.  This dream is then made into a vision for the future of a business, or an organisation.  This vision is then delivered.  So, the 4 stages of Appreciative Inquiry are : Discover (the talking stage), Dream (the thinking stage), Design (the planning stage) and finally... destiny.

Although i don't intend on doing any scientific analysis of how Appreciative Inquiry can change the way people think, I do have one example of the attitude behind it working. 


Dream House:


Imagine that tomorrow you get a phone call, telling you that in 30 days from now you will be moving house.  When you ask where to, or why, you are told 'that information is on a need to know basis'.  How do you react?  The answer is, you say 'no, i don't want to move, i'm NOT moving'.  This situation can be compared to someone telling you there will be changes at work, these changes being on a 'need to know basis' and leaving you to it.  How do you feel? 

Now imagine that tomorrow you get a phone call, telling you that in 30 days from now you will be moving house.  You are told that you will get an input into the design of your new house, the location, and that you will be able to keep the many features of your old house that you knew and loved.  I know i'd be more likely to say 'yes', and start packing.  There lies the basis of Appreciative Inquiry.  Changing organisations by developing what people feel positive about.  Building on what organisations already do well, and making that 'all the time', and central to the structure of the organisation.


Appreciative Inquiry - teaching and learning


Applying appreciative inquiry to teaching and learning, then, means asking people about their greatest learning experiences, developing how they felt at the time of those experiences, and asking them to imagine an environment where this is how they always feel.  When do you learn at your best?  When do you feel your teaching is at its most potent?  What could be changed about your teaching to make you this inspired always? 


For the students, the answers seemed to leap from the page.  They each talked to 4 of their peers, and 1 academic, and when we met them again for a debrief, they kept coming up with similar themes.  Teachers who want to be teaching.  A greater sense of peer to peer support.  Clearly structured modules with notes available, and discussion groups online.  Teachers available to share their views and their time. 


Appreciative Inquiry - my own view


Although to some people, the concept of appreciative inquiry can often meet with a sense of cynicism (it does, after all, work on the supposition that the negative is discounted in favour of the positive), but in a society and a working life which seems to be all about getting further than others, doing better, working longer and achieving more, the change to sit down with someone who is really listening to your positive stories not only makes you feel relaxed and released, but also reminds you what you thrive on as a person - in work or in general life.  The workshop I led at the conference is attached, and includes a practical exercise where I encouraged people to get into pairs and conduct their own mini inquiry on the spot.  An awkward silence soon became a busy room full of unique conversations, laughter, surprise and inspiration.  It only took them 20 minutes, but from my position as facilitator, it was obvious that for a small amount of time at least, the 20 people in front of me had forgotten the daily grind and were remembering what really made them tick.  And that can only be a good thing.

hand out - student voice appreciative inquiry.doc 

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