The Appreciative Inquiry approach is beginning to demonstrate to academic staff that there is much that is positive in what they do and in their experiences. It has also provided a context in which they are not being ‘told what is wrong and how to fix it’, but a supportive environment in which to try out ideas.
Queen’s University Belfast’s assessment and feedback project final report
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a technique for approaching change in a positive way. It can be used to gain an understanding of the baseline situation you are starting from and as a basis for action planning to move forward building on what you are already doing well. The approach is about focusing on the positive as opposed to identifying “what is wrong and what you need to do to fix it”.
The approach was developed by Cooperrider and Whitney (2005) who devised a 4D cycle of Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny with your “affirmative topic of choice” at the centre.
The approach is very flexible and non-prescriptive and the timescale and level of formality at each stage of the cycle will vary depending on the topic and organisational context.
To illustrate how the approach worked in practice Queen’s University Belfast has published the appreciative inquiry script that it used in discussions around assessment and feedback practice.
Let’s focus on these positives…Think of a time when you experienced assessment and/or feedback and it was a positive experience. It may not have started that way, but the outcome was positive for you. Discovering what worked well in the past reminds us that we can bring about positive assessment and feedback experiences for ourselves and our students. Building on these capacities envision how you can position yourself to embrace assessment and feedback in a more positive way in the future. Identifying what works, imagine what YOU can do in your modules or the teaching team can undertake to improve assessment and feedback for all.
Queen’s University Belfast’s AI script
Brunel University has developed a novel adaptation of Appreciative Inquiry that it used in reviewing the management of its course information. Brunel saw the value of AI but realised that when reviewing processes, people often find it easiest to start by identifying the negative aspects so it combined AI with the work of Edward de Bono and his Six Thinking Hats.
In Brunel’s AI workshops stakeholders released their negative thoughts at the door by physically writing them down on post-it notes and sticking them to the black hat. This allowed them to see that the negative views were represented whilst preparing them to move forward and embrace AI. Brunel University has developed a toolkit for others wishing to try out the technique.