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Reframing Evaluation in Education through Appreciative Inquiry

Blog written on demand of the TED (Team Education Design) of Academy for Leisure - NHTV

Times are changing and that is also true for evaluation. In the industrial context, organizations were predominantly about machines and education was predominantly about knowledge. In today’s connected society, organizations are predominantly about people and innovation and knowledge is everywhere available. At the turn of the century UNESCO’s International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century developed a conceptual framework that organized lifelong learning into four pillars: Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live Together, and Learning to Be (see Table 1). It is evident that the limited view on evaluation as ‘checking absorbed knowledge’ from this new perspective on educating professionals has to be reframed fundamentally.
It is in this shifting context that appreciative inquiry emerged in the 80’s of previous century as a practical philosophy and tool that empowers the people-dimension in organizations. Appreciative inquiry is a practical strategy that focuses on the best, the most generative in individuals and organizations. As such it is a practical strategy that breaks with the conventional problem-based orientation and encourages people to strive towards a more positive organizational future based on two main theoretical bases: positive imagery and social constructionism/dialogue. With Imagineering we take this position even one step further as we state that the explicit imaginative articulation of a generative image is crucial in evoking the collective creative action towards the future in the whole of the living system/network of stakeholders.
Turning to evaluation in education, a more individual setting than the organizational setting for which appreciative inquiry is once developed, taking the lens of appreciative inquiry is an interesting challenge that fits into the new broader movement of positive education and, in our AfL-context, the thinking about positive management education specifically . It indeed offers a potentially powerful lens to reframe the typical deficit-based orientation that dominated the field of evaluation so far but it definitely needs some reflection if we really want to get the best out of it. It is evident with our competence-based education at AfL we already integrated a bigger picture on what is education all about and we already left the limiting deficit-based, pass-fail logic behind as the only way evaluation makes sense. Taking the turn to appreciative evaluating is, according to me, an interesting and inspiring next step considering that the concept of ‘appreciative evaluating’ in education has not yet one hit on google and google scholar and considering the fact that appreciative inquiry is built as an organizational, relational instrument.
But interesting work is taking off in the context of using appreciative inquiry for self-knowing and self-development in education. This work recognizes three kinds of communication through which the assessment is done: Deep listening, Dialogue and Diary. On top it elaborates on seven stages of AI: Develop relations (D1), Define (D2), Discover (D3), Dream (D4), Design (D5), Deploy (D6) and Document (D7). I really think that with the challenge of reframing evaluation through appreciative inquiry, TED (Team Education Design) is articulating an interesting challenge at AfL that is also worth some research which possibly might also result in some relevant publications in educational journals.
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