Giving life to education. Learning together, living together.

Appreciative Inquiry: how can we use this in school?

Last month I attended a conference titled; Giving life to education. What a cool title, who could resist the chance of giving life to education? It was a two-day conference and the themes were both interesting and engaging to me and I have had some time to think about it and mostly wonder how I can implement this in my work at my school. Therefore I have decided to write about it, and share my takeaways from the conference. Hope you can find some good ideas. The conference startet with these facts as a way to get us thinking;  We know teachers and school leaders devote themselves with enthusiasm to providing rich and effective learning experiences. Parents, government officials, and concerned citizens are also invested in education for excellence.

And yet:

  • Students are seldom enthusiastic about school; they are often bored or resistant.
  • Students don’t find their interests represented in standardized curricula.
  • Exams and grades contribute to a climate of stress and fear.
  • Students who perform poorly become alienated and drop out.
  • Competition is divisive.
  • Many students cease to attend school at all.
  • Bullying is commonplace and contributes to the atmosphere of fear.
  • Top-Down policies stifle innovative teaching.
  • Traditional subjects of study make a little place for pressing social issues.

The Conference Challenge:

By sharing experiences and ideas, can we co-create a vision of schooling in which students are motivated and inspired, relationships are thriving, learning is effective, innovation is continuous, and there is a close relationship between schools and the surrounding world? Can we provide concrete examples, and develop realistic routes to these ends?

Quick and easy solutions?

I think we can agree that there are no quick fixes here, but we owe it to our students to look for better solutions and to help our students succeed.  One of the topics that we looked at was appreciative inquiry.

Appreciative inquiry asks a simple question, “How can we be better?” It is based on the theory behind constructionism; that what we say has a huge influence on what we do, and the things we say are largely determined by the types of relationships we have. It’s not about criticism; it’s about seeing relationships for how they really are. Source. Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Inquiry focuses on strengths and opportunities. As part of the strengths-based revolution that includes positive psychology and new applications from neuroscience, the AI approach calls for us to rediscover and organize the good and the strong rather than focus solely on the problems we face. We are better able to meet our challenges creatively by defining and using our strengths, instead of spending so much time defining our shortages. This is easily related to how we tend to work at school, spending a lot of time talking about problems and students’ behavior, not so much about strengths and solutions.

In order for this to work, we need to build strong relationships. We have to build a trusting environment where students know that the teachers care about them and want them to succeed. We also need to create new ways of having conversations with our students. Working on relationships, showing the students that we are interested in hearing their story. Where do they see themselves in 5 years? How can we help them reach that goal? We need to start listening to each other and try to relate to what they are saying. Is it true that we tend to be to problem-focused, looking for where to put the blame? I think many are.  If you change the conversation, you change the culture. Look at the model shown here and let me know if this is something you are using at school.


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