Appreciative Inquiry

Have just spent a fascinating day with Don Hanna from the University of Wisconsin, Extension, who is in Wellington for the week. (More details of who Don is and the work he does can be found in the extended entry link).
We had a great discussion around the theme of appreciative inquiry – something Don introduced me to a couple of years ago when he was here as a keynote speaker at the DEANZ conference.
appreciative inquiry is an approach to organisational change based on the premise that ??organisations change in the direction in which they inquire.?? I’ve been attempting to adopt this approach in the work Iv’e been doing over the past two years, and can really vouch for its effectiveness. Amazing how differently people react in a change environment where there is a positive focus, rather than the traditional approach which tends to problematize everything.


Introducing Don Hanna
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Don Hanna is professor of Educational Communications, University of Wisconsin-Extension, with a concurrent appointment as Professor of Continuing and Vocational Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been an administrator and teacher at four land-grant universities, and has participated in and helped to lead major institutional change efforts at three of these universities. Each of these change efforts involved the development of academic programs offered at a distance using educational technologies. Don served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Extension from 1993-1997 and previously was Associate Vice-Provost for Extended University Services at Washington State University, where he served from 1983-1993. He also was Assistant Professor and head of the Division of Extramural Courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1979-1983. Don has received a number of awards for creative programming and leadership, including a Kellogg National Fellowship to pursue the study of telecommunications policy and applications of telecommunications that benefit developing countries and a fellowship with Northwestern University’s Annenberg Communications Policy Program in Washington, D.C. He received his A.B. degree in anthropology and history from the University of Kansas, and his Ph.D. in Adult and Continuing Education from Michigan State University in 1978.

Don has authored several books, details of which can be found here.

I can personally recommend the “147 Tips” book as an excellent handbook for those starting out in online teaching – it contains an excellent mix of tips, good advice and techniques, all linked to a pedagogical model that is outlined in the introduction.

At an entirely different level, I can also recommend the “Leadership for 21st Century Learning” – winner of the Weidermier Prize in 2002 – a superb collection of the accumulated wisdom of many of the great leaders and thinkers in distance education today.

Another of Don’s special interest areas is appreciative inquiry – an approach to organisational change based on the premise that ??organisations change in the direction in which they inquire.?? So an organisation which inquires into problems will keep finding problems but an organisation which attempts to appreciate what is best in itself will discover more and more that it good. It can then to use these discoveries to build a new future where the best becomes more common. For more on this try a Google Search on Appreciative Inquiry.

2 thoughts on “Appreciative Inquiry

  1. Appreciative inquiy is an interesting research methodology that I have come across in different contexts to organisational change, but never used myself. My understanding being that it is research that seeks out positives rather than negatives. So for example, ask not why online learning doesn’t work but identify, from the people it works for, the conditions and other factors that contribute to making it work. So yes, this ties in with my own ‘action research’ influenced view of appreciative enquiry. One fly in the ointment from a research perspective is avoiding the charge of ‘cherry picking’ of data to support views held. I guess this would also apply to organisational change scenarios?

  2. Derek- this is extremely interesting stuff. Can you recommend any other reading on this topic for me??? My MA in Ed is about practitioner research for school improvement and this is fab stuff.

    Rob 😉

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