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Appreciative Inquiry

In finding Appreciative Inquiry (AI), I have found a valuable tool that transcends into so much more as the focus upon the positive core moves conversations and inquiry forward. The promise and potential for constructive use of AI and its relevant practices are limitless.


Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a model of change management (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005). AI also is described as a strengths-based, capacity building approach to transforming human systems (Barrett & Fry, 2005). AI has been recognized further as an approach to organizational analysis and learning (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2008).  In Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change, Cooperrider and Whitney (2005) tie it together this way:

AI theory states that organizations are centers of human relatedness, first and foremost, and relationships thrive where there is an appreciative eye – when the people see the best in one another, share their dreams and ultimate concerns in affirming ways, and are connected in full voice to create not just new worlds but better worlds. (p. 61)

Whether a model, an approach, a framework, a perspective, a stance, or a theory, Appreciative Inquiry “is a constructive, generative, and capacity building mode of action-research in which inquiry, learning, and change are seen as a related, integral whole” (Barrett & Fry, 2005, p. 36).

Appreciative Inquiry has been used in many and varied forms and applications. It has been used to build capacity in the private and public business, health, and education sectors; in the practice of law, medicine, theology, life coaching, and therapy; and in community building and development work at local, national, and global levels. Threads of an appreciative stance have extended to formal work in areas of Appreciative Sharing of Knowledge (Thatchenkery, 2005), Appreciative Intelligence (Thatchenkery & Metzker, 2006), Appreciative Living (Kelm, 2005), the Appreciative Organization (Anderson, Cooperrider, Gergen, K., Gergen, M., McNamee, Watkins, & Whitney, 2008), the Appreciative Inquiry Summit (Ludema, Whitney, Mohr, & Griffin, 2003), Research (Reed, 2007), Appreciative Team Building (Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, Cherney, & Fry, 2004), and Appreciative Leadership (Bushe, 2006; Ricchiuto, 2005, Schiller, Holland, & Riley, 2001; Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, & Rader, 2010). The applications for the principles of Appreciative Inquiry seem boundless.


Within education, Appreciative Inquiry has also been adapted to a variety of functions and purposes. Among these have been work on school improvement – typically involving strategic planning (Adams, Samuelson, Willoughby, 2002; Cooperrider & Pratt, 2001; Morris, Schiller, Stavros, & Morotta, 2002; Stetson & Miller, 2003; Szecsey, 2002; Willoughby & Samuels, 2009); research into teacher preparation (Harkess, 2004), Appreciative Instructional Design Model (Norum, 2000), AI and transformative learning (Wood, 2006), AI and experiential education (Ricketts & Willis, 2001), Appreciative Pedagogy (Conklin, 2009; O’Connor & Yballe, 2007; Yballe & O’Connor, 2004; 2000), AI and teacher perceptions (Glasgow, 2008; Holman, 2004; Hummel, 2007), and leadership through Appreciative Inquiry (Carr-Stewart & Walker, 2003). Additionally, reflections upon the use and impact of AI in schools has been shared (Luth-Hanssen, Hauger, & Nesje, 2007; Nesje, 2007). This is only a sampling of the ways the “art of appreciation” (Barrett & Fry, 2005) and the appreciative stance have been applied in educational environs to discover, to revalue and to build capacity.

Appreciative Inquiry seems particularly appropriate for change within education because its aims and benefits correspond with the challenges faced in education. Appreciative Inquiry entails focusing on what is most valuable, vitalizing and vibrant in a human system (Barrett & Fry, 2005). When leadership adopts an appreciative stance—an extension of Appreciative Inquiry which is represented by the application of the five principles of Appreciative Inquiry (Appendix 3; Cooperrider & Whitney, 2005, pp. 49-53) in organizational practices—results may be powerful. Reality and truth is co-created (Constructionist Principle). A focus is on that which is desired (Poetic Principle). Transformation begins with the asking of an unconditional positive question (Simultaneity Principle). Positive images promote positive futures (Anticipatory Principle). A positive core of capacity expands and grows (Positive Principle). An appreciative stance asks us to value collective intelligence and to promote procedures that empower multiple stakeholders to construct positive realities that serve a common purpose. “AI is inherently about creating learning relationships that are generative,” which is a fit for employing an appreciative stance in addressing education (Barrett & Fry, 2005, p. 95). In addition to being used as a situational intervention strategy, Appreciative Inquiry may be an over-arching organizational approach (an appreciative culture).

Recommended Resources (please see Bibliography page for more resources)

Appreciative Inquiry Commons (website)

What is Appreciative Inquiry? (video)

Appreciative Inquiry Handbook for Leaders of Change (book)

Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Sound (book)

Entrevista con Miriam Subirana – Indagacion Apreciativa (video)

Indagacion Apreciativa por Miriam Subirana (video)

8 Principles of AI

8 Principles of AI

5-D Appreciative Inquiry Cycle

5-D Appreciative Inquiry Cycle


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