Teaching with the Four D's of Appreciative Inquiry

By Frazier, David | The Agricultural Education Magazine, May/June 2008 | Go to article overview

Teaching with the Four D's of Appreciative Inquiry


Frazier, David, The Agricultural Education Magazine


As a new agricultural science teacher, I remember feeling that I had been given the distinct opportunity of making a difference, not only in the lives of my students but in the lives of their families and the lives of those that were involved in our school and community as well. I remember entering my classroom for the first time. My mind was going a hundred miles an hour with ideas and expectations that I had been planning for during the past four years as a pre-service teacher. I had dreamed time and time again of the classes that I would teach; however, as I unlocked the door to my classroom for the first time, my mind began to whirl and questions began to fly at me from all directions: What do I really know about this place? Am I ready to teach in my very own program? Will my students enjoy my teaching style? Can I really teach these students? How am I going to make thing happen? As I stood at the periphery of my new career, I realized that for the first time in my life I had been given the sole responsibility of educating my very own students. I was excited and terrified at the same moment.

The Approach

As I began remembering teachers in my past, I realized that many were problem-solvers the kind of individuals who see what needs to be fixed and concentrate their efforts in these areas. These were teachers who concentrate so much of their efforts on the 1% that needs to be fixed that they often neglect to care for the 99% that works just fine. In order to build a solid foundation for my teaching style, I decided to concentrate on the positives right away. I wanted to build on "what is" rather than fixing "what should be". I later learned that the approach I had taken was appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry implements four D's: discover, dream, design and destiny. In addition to the four D's, the appreciative inquiry teaching approach uses teamwork in its participatory approach to learning. By using questions, appreciative inquiry seeks to find and develop a better understanding of "what is" which allows the positive in a situation to be uncovered and accentuated. Once positives are identified; the "what could be" is the next logical step. This second step encourages learners to look beyond the current situation and see the possibilities that are within reach. The third step leads into the "what should be" which persuades the learners to take a deeper look into the possibilities and find those which represent the best of what should be. Finally, learners enter into the design element of application where they actually complete the process. This learning phase was one that I felt would meet the needs of my students and provide them with a positive educational experience.

Making Thinking Interesting

My first few weeks of teaching brought many challenges and obstacles; however, one thing stood out in my mind-my students were genuinely interested in this teaching approach. Not only did I have great participation by each of the students, I also witnessed as understanding and learning took place on a daily basis. Students would enter my classroom with ideas and comments from the previous lesson, thus proving to me that retention was being fostered through interest. Another unique factor of this teaching approach was that it created interest and teamwork amongst all learning levels-from moderate learning disabled to gifted and talented. By the end of the semester, it was evident that the appreciative inquiry teaching approach was my style of teaching.

So what made it work? The answer was simple: Discover, Dream, Design and Destiny. Each of my lessons began with the discover stage, thus allowing my students to evaluate what they really knew about the subject. I encouraged them, sometimes in groups and sometimes individually, to list as many things as they could in regards to the subject being taught. I used thought -provoking questions to encourage the group to go beyond their initial reactions and dive deeper into their personal knowledge of the topic. …

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