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Appreciative inquiry in education


'Appreciative Inquiry' is an approach that believes, improvement is more engaging when the focus is made on the strengths rather than the weaknesses. People tend to respond to positive statements but react to negative statements that concern them. Children are more sensitive to their self-worth and thrive on what makes them feel good, what makes them feel accepted, included and recognized. AI is a powerful tool that can be used in the field of Education to enable children discover what is good about them and dream of what they can do with this realization. Children of today are very sensitive and make decisions in haste which sometimes costs them their lives. In such a situation, AI plays a very vital role.

Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system ‘life’ when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to heighten positive potential. It mobilizes inquiry through crafting an “unconditional positive question’ often involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.”

Applied in the education sector, AI is a cooperative search for the best in children, their school, their teachers, their classmates, their parents and this discovery influences and helps shape their image of the future. It all begins with a story which the appreciative inquirer tells about him/herself and this story is only about where the child has experienced the best of what he could e.g. in reading, writing, passing tests and exams. With this flow of energy from past experience, the child is poised for a similar experience in the future and so nurtures all that give energy and brings joy of performance, acceptance and readiness to move ahead. AI starts with a statement of purpose or object of inquiry and which then takes the inquirer through the five steps (known as the 5Ds of AI) and graphically illustrated as follows:

Refer the picture in

Appreciative Inquiry in the education sector can amplify the motivation of the students and help them become most alive and effective. AI brings about social change in the pupil as the emphasis is on what is good and the belief that people nurture what they appreciate, than what they are not happy about. The system of education can be based on the five principles of AI that will enable the child discover through her/his own story, what is good about him/her and dream of how he/she can capitalize on this story of goodness to do more of such things that he/she appreciates about himself, about his environment, about his world.

A quick look at the principles will enable the understanding of why AI is suitable for our education system: i. Constructionist Principle – argues that the language and metaphors we use don’t just describe reality (the world), they actually create ‘our ‘reality (the world). It means that great care is taken in the choice of words that we use as it will influence the kind of future we create. The language of the teacher influences what the child considers as his/her reality and this influences his self-perception and hence his self-worth which is very important for what he/she becomes in future. ii. Principle of Simultaneity – change begins from the moment we ask a question about a thing. The heart of AI is an unconditional positive question. For example – what was the best thing that has happened to you in the last week? iii. The Poetic Principle - as the topic of inquiry is on what is good about the individual or the environment, this helps open a new chapter in the life of the child. Stories reveal qualities which had not been previously realized and appreciated. iv. The Anticipatory Principle – we grow into the images we create, hence, when the child is made to see himself as good, his imagination about his future will always be good enough and as magnet this imagined future will always pull the child towards this goal. v. The Positive Principle – feelings of hope, inspiration, caring, sense of purpose, joy and creating something meaningful or being part of something good are among what we define as positive. It is therefore, important that the questions asked to the child are affirmative and positive.



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