Do You Have AI in Your Toolbox?

By Lawver, Rebecca; Lambert, Misty | The Agricultural Education Magazine, May/June 2008 | Go to article overview

Do You Have AI in Your Toolbox?


Lawver, Rebecca, Lambert, Misty, The Agricultural Education Magazine


Teachers are always looking for new and interesting teaching methods to add to our Teaching Tool Box. We have one to suggest: appreciative inquiry. What is appreciative inquiry (AI), you ask? Well, let's begin by breaking the terms down to explain the concept.

APPRECIATE: Valuing and recognizing the best in people and the world around us.

INQUIRY: Exploring and discovering new potentials and possibilities.

Appreciative inquiry, therefore, is a positive way of exploring the value of the world around us. It focuses on strengths, successes, values, hopes, and dreams with the idea that these can be transformational, for both the student and for the classroom environment (Corporation for Positive Change). In AI theory, there is a connection between positive images and positive actions. It is a way to manage change in an organization.

There are four basic components of appreciative inquiry that can be described by the 4-D Appreciative Inquiry Cycle (see Fig. 1). The DISCOVERY stage is an understanding of the "what is and what has been". This forms an appreciation and value for the topic you are studying and helps create a conversation about what is working well while moving the group into a positive interaction. The DREAM stage involves identifying "what might be", as well as possibilities for improvement or potential outcomes. The DESIGN stage engages individual contributions to identify "what should be". Here, individuals create possibilities or suggest positive changes to be implemented. Finally, the DESTINY stage continues ongoing learning and innovation of "what will be". At the center of appreciative inquiry is the POSITIVE CORE or positive question. This four-phase cycle begins with a positive question which is critical to the outcomes of the classroom. It creates hope and momentum around a meaningful purpose. The 4-D cycle provides a framework for continual learning and cycles back to the beginning of the process to discover what is working best. Now, for the second question: how can I use this as an agriculture teacher?

The process all starts with identifying what is to be studied and asking the positive question. Questions could be asked in several ways in regards to the topic such as a story, identifying what is of value, discussing what is good or by visioning for the future (Norum, 2001). How we ask the question is also important. Design questions which are stated in an affirmative way using positive language. The topics you select provide a framework for gathering stories and sharing among students. The ability to draw on common history and experiences with students will provide them with the knowledge that they can apply to real world situations. This' process celebrates and even seeks out the students' own positive experiences and successes. Students are capable and we can encourage them to be successful as we focus on bringing their experiences to class. This entire process must be guided by the belief that all students bring their own varied roles in work, classes, organizations, relationships, and teams. This means that concepts and insights are more personally meaningful because they are based on personal experiences and are, therefore, easily relatable for the students (Ybelle & O'Connor, 2000). By building this positive and inquisitive environment, a rapport begins to develop that encourages trust and safety between teachers and students.

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