Appreciative Inquiry as a Tool for Reflection and Growth

Appreciative Inquiry at a Glance

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an “attributes-based” approach that can be used to facilitate reflective conversations either during formal professional learning sessions or as part of the ongoing dialogue between mentors and colleagues.

At the core of AI is the belief that all participants come to mentoring relationships possessing many strengths and that by building on these assets, the answers to the issues and challenges they face can be collaboratively constructed.

This thinking is why AI always begins with an examination of what is working well in current practice (themes of success). Many of these themes can then be applied as actual strategies to collaboratively address specific challenges and issues.

Appreciative Inquiry Conversation Map

Below you’ll find some practical ideas for using AI. The Appreciative Inquiry Commons is a great place to explore the concept of AI in greater depth: http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu

Step by Step

Before the Conversation: Power of Listening

At its core, listening shows we care. It is a powerful tool for establishing and building the relational trust essential for any mentoring relationship.

Reviewing the elements of listening sets the context for Appreciative Inquiry conversations and promotes an open, non-evaluative atmosphere conducive to meaningful sharing of thoughts and ideas.

Beginning the Conversation: Themes of Success

What’s already working well?

Often in our practice we can focus on what is not working – creating time for paired conversations about what is working well can help bring to the fore the strengths and attributes of both new colleagues and mentors as well as highlighting the successes they’ve experienced in the year.

Following this segment of the conversation, participants may note common threads or themes that ran through their stories of success.

Some of these “themes of success” may actually provide useful strategies for the challenges and issues participants encounter.

Continuing the Conversation: Issues and Challenges

What’s not working so well?

Acknowledging the “real world” challenges both new and experienced colleagues encounter in their work brings authenticity to the AI process.

As the listener in the conversation, it is important for mentors to remember their role is non-evaluative and supportive.

Concluding the Conversation: Practical Ideas and Next Steps

Collaborative Strategy Harvest of Ideas

Often when someone expresses a challenge they have already given the issue a great deal of prior thought.

For mentors, awareness of flexibility of stance and role is critical at this point of the process.

Based on what they are hearing, mentors may decide to:

  • Consult (offer support and resources)
  • Collaborate (create challenge and encourage growth)
  • Coach (facilitate professional vision)

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