5-D Appreciative Inquiry in Schools

The 5-D Cycle of Appreciative Inquiry in Schools

Imagine how successful your leadership will be viewed when cultural transformation is a lasting legacy you leave for your school.

Appreciative Inquiry is predicated on a 4-D cycle in some early conceptualizations, but I find the 5-D cycle, which begins with a solid focus on Definition to be the most practical. In this task, problems that will be solved are defined in a very specific and quantifiable way. Team members and the focus of the process are defined, and by adding this D, the Definition D, we are determining what we want to explore and setting limits so the inquiry is focused and results can be accomplished that meet the original need for the project.  The Definition phase can take place in a small group, in a larger appreciative inquiry summit, or among team leaders who will set the agenda for the next 4 phases.

After the definition phase comes the Discovery phase. This is one of the key strategies to effective Appreciative Inquiry. Rather than looking at the problem to find a fix, Appreciative Inquiry strives to discover the strengths and resources that are unique within a school or community.  It is amazing how profound keys to success can be found by looking at what is right with an organization rather than following the traditional model of looking for problems. Appreciative Inquiry is unique in that its focus decidedly on what is working rather than what is wrong, and ends an organization’s fixation with problems and negativity, replacing it with generativity. By using a Discovery approach with questions designed to remove blinders and elicit strengths, the process of change can begin immediately upon embarking on this process.

Imagine holding a training where participants felt there were actual solutions even in the first hour, and how that might set the stage for all day success. That is the vision and the practice of AI.

Dreaming is the third D. As a therapist, I have been helping clients move to a preferred scene in Gerard Egan’s Problem Solving Model since the late 1980’s. This is the dream phase, the part of the process where leaders, schools, and communities create a portrait of what a school might look like if its fullest potential was realized. This is the phase where expectations for success are established and a mindset of empowerment replaces a mindset of defeat or resignation. I know how to help a school drill down to define a dream that is attainable, and your school can find through this process a unique preferred scene that promotes flourishing growth and advancement.

Design is the fourth D, and in this phase a school maps a pathway to what should be done based on the dreams and the discovered strengths from the previous phases. Design is found in participants answering questions such as “What can we learn for our past success?” and “What is the most effective thing we have done in other classes or departments that we can use with the whole school?”

Imagine the potential your school could tap into by discovering something unique in one class or department that could prove transformational throughout the organization if only others knew about it.  This is what AI does for an organization.

The fifth step is the Destiny or Delivery phase.  Every organization that embarks on a quest of change wants deliverables. Appreciative Inquiry is not just a process for feeling good, but a process for creating actionable outcomes and quantifiable success. This step might begin with “What small change can we implement today?” or ask questions like “How can we communicate our plan and follow-up?” Goals and objectives are defined with specific action strategies that result in complete change.

If I am doing a training with a leadership team or a large group my focus remains the same – translating a proven process that has worked for other schools into a meaningful process and results for your school. Training a team or a staff in Appreciative Inquiry can be a one-day process or it might take the form of ongoing consulting and guidance. Core Group Inquiries can focus on narrow niches within a school and positive change networks can expand the scope to include other related schools or community organizations.

To learn more about AI, or to begin this process in your school, call me