Month: May 2016

Appreciating and Learning!

It’s been a while since I last blogged; amazing how life gets in the way of creative time. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that I do, it’s just that building time into a full schedule for such things ends up being easily overlooked.

imageSo what am I ruminating on? Anything to do with appreciate inquiry (AI). New concept? A great definition can be found on The Appreciative Inquiry Commons …“Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them.” I was first introduced to this approach back when working on a masters in leadership and management…I immediately connected with the concept, it simply made sense to me. However, over the years I haven’t given it much thought…until recently when teaching AI in Organizational Behaviour. In one class I had the students engage in an appreciative experience that was very impactful; so many of these students had never been affirmed for their strengths, successes, and amazing potential. From that experience I also began looking at Appreciate Inquiry in light of organizational change…again, not a new concept to me, but one that had left my radar.

I don’t know about you, but I find that when a topic grabs my attention, I end up seeing and connecting to resources (both print and people) that contribute to my drive and passion to learn more! I’ve been introduced to great authors on the topic, and other professionals from various industries who are applying the concepts in their practice. One connection I made with a professor from Royal Roads University really impressed me with his application of AI to enhance the student’s learning. Which brings me to where I am right now…

At the post secondary institution where I teach, we are experiencing an increase in the number of international students enrolling in our business program. This is wonderful! I love the diversity it brings to the classroom, and the sharing of experiences it affords. However, it also brings challenges that I have found, at times, overwhelming. At first I was very discouraged, doubted my ability to effectively facilitate learning, and very saddened by hurtful emails received from unsuccessful students. BUT…once I got over the hurt and frustration, the fighting started. Not with the students or the institution, but with myself. I love classroom diversity, I love a good challenge, and I am not a quitter!

Brave words, but what to do about it? Back to AI. My personal mission is to ‘Equip and encourage others to discover their strengths and use them to reach their fullest potential’. That holds true no matter the focus…family, friends, clients, AND students. So, how am I taking that mission, that commitment, and living it in a diverse classroom? This quote inspired me to start figuring it out.

“Appreciative leaders hold each and every person in positive regard. They look through appreciative eyes to see the best of people. They seek to treat all individuals positively, with respect and dignity, no matter their age, gender, race, religion, or culture—even education or experience. They believe that everyone has positive potential—a positive core of strengths and a passionate calling to be fulfilled—and they seek to bring that forward and nurture it.” Appreciative Leadership by Whitney, Trosten-Bloom & Rader

First step…help my students appreciate who they are as learners, focus on positive learning experiences, consider what they contributed to those successes, and consider what they can continue to do in their current learning environments to realize similar success. I did this in the first class by giving the students a handout asking  questions that would help them identify and think through such experiences. I allowed an appropriate amount of time for them to reflect and write down their responses to the questions, then share their reflections with a small group. The experiences shared were varied and provided a wonderful opportunity for students from 5 different cultures to share about their learning successes.

Second step…our next class started by inviting group members to share about how individuality is celebrated in their country of origin. Again, wonderful discussions that embraced their diversity in a positive manner.

So far so good…but it has only been 2 classes. The next major step happens this week as I have one on ones with each student for the purpose of getting to know them, and talking about their learning experience reflections. I will be asking them to share how they could apply what they learned from their past successes in realizing their learning goals for this semester; I’ll also invite them to identity how I can support them in this endeavour.

Stay tuned…this is a new learning journey for me…and my students!