Enabling Dialogue

Year: 2005

Author: Alderson, Sharon, Gilles, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Current educational discourse has struggled to genuinely move beyond deficit-based language. Even Action Research, the predominant model for professional development and research in education, starts with the identification of the problem - the gap (Cardno, 2002). It would appear that the vocabulary for a hope-filled discourse, which captures the imagination surrounding our educational future, has escaped us. Equally important, we seem bereft of educational contexts where the experience for students is holistic and transformative.

Appreciative Inquiry is a research approach that seeks to facilitate change based on participant's recall moments of best practice and the subsequent processing of this information (Cady & Caster, 2000; Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987;English, Fenwick, & Parsons, 2003; Hammond, 1998; Hammond & Royal, 1998). Rather than problem-centred, it is solution-focused. In this way, proponents describe it as 'dream forming' and 'destiny creating'. Based on assumptions that include 'in every organisation something works' and 'if we are to carry anything of our past forward in our lives, it should be the good things', Appreciative Inquiry energises the researcher and participants alike to reach for higher ideals (Hammond, 1998; Hammond & Royal, 1998).

This paper will outline an appreciative inquiry within a Family Literacy project, a bridging programme for adults, jointly sponsored by COMET (City of Manakau Education Trust), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development and Auckland University of Technology. The particular research approach enabled the capture of data revealing student's accounts of transformative learning experiences within their learning community and the impact this in turn had on their wider communities.