I was first introduced to the ideas of Appreciative Inquiry by Gene Thompson-Grove, the head of Professional Development for the Public Schools of Brookline (my former employer). Recently, I've been reflecting on Hammond's 8 Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry and how they relate to my work as an Instructional Technology Specialist.
The major assumption of Appreciative Inquiry is that in every organization something works and change can be managed through the identification of what works, and the analysis of how to do more of what works. (page 3)
8 Assumptions of Appreciative Inquiry (pages 20-21):
1. "In every society, organization, or group something works."
In a society that is always trying to solve problems, we often miss seeing what works. Those of us who evangelize educational technology in our schools, often complain that teachers aren't doing enough to integrate technology into their curriculum. Yet, there are many teachers and students in our schools who are doing great things. The first thing to do is to ask the questions - What is working?
2. "What we focus on becomes our reality."
If we focus on all of the ways that our schools are NOT preparing students for the 21st century then that will become our reality. In turn, if we take a look at all the ways we are preparing students to succeed in the future, we can use those positive models to inspire others to do the same. It is a much more pleasant reality.
3. "Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities."
Our own perception of what is real might be very different than a colleague's perspective. OK, this one is a little too zen for me. I welcome your thoughts here.
4. "The act of asking questions of an organization or group influences the group in some way."
Just asking the question makes a difference. Think about the difference you could make by asking what IS working, rather than what is NOT working.
5. "People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known)."
We can't and shouldn't expect teachers to abandon everything they know and do well in order to bring technology to their teaching. Technology is a tool that only works when it is placed in the hands of a thoughtful practitioner.
6. "If we carry parts of the past forward, they should be what is best about the past."
This brings it back to the positive. If we are going to keep doing what we have always been doing, let's make sure what we are doing is working.
7. "It is important to value differences."
Different opinions, different approaches, different perspectives all add value to an organization.
8. "The language we use creates our reality."
You are what you eat - OK I'm just checking to see if you are still paying attention. Choose your words carefully.
I'm going to try to carry these 8 assumptions with me into my work (and my life). I think they are particularly appropriate as we in America celebrate our Thanksgiving next week.