Michelle T. Carter

Appreciative Inquiry and Adult Transformative Learning as an Integrated Framework to Guide Life Coaching Practice
by Michelle T. Carter
Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center
San Francisco, California
June 2009Abstract:
Although there are numerous models that influence the practice of coaching, there is a gap in the research exploring the connection between a practice and outcome specific to the field of life coaching. This dissertation investigated the application of Appreciative Inquiry to facilitate adult transformative learning within the context of the life coaching relationship from both the coach and client perspective. To support the exploration of a theoretical framework to guide life-coaching practice, this dissertation examined the question: Can the practice of life coaching, informed by the philosophy and principles of Appreciative Inquiry, foster an integrated process of adult transformative learning? The coach experience focused on the question: How are Appreciative Inquiry principles incorporated into life coaching practice? The investigation of the client experience was led by the question: What conditions of the coaching practice, informed by Appreciative Inquiry, best support adult transformative learning?

In a grounded theory process, 10 coaches paired with one of their clients, were engaged in semi-structured interviews to investigate their perspective of how a practice informed by Appreciative Inquiry could facilitate a transformative learning experience. An outcome of the analysis of the data revealed the coach and client-participants’ experience fell into three central categories: (a) Provocative partnership; (b) Generative and performative learning; and (c) Whole person learning. The data within each category were then analyzed and revealed 8 subcategories: Purposeful engagement, intention for learning, coaching presence, context of the inquiry, dialogue and storytelling, philosophical framework, interpreting the learning, and conditions for learning. The study revealed that Appreciative Inquiry, as a theoretically informed approach to life coaching practice, facilitated an integrated process of transformative learning. Client-participants indicated that the transformative learning experience affected cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social dimensions of their lives. Withinrelationship, participants engaged in a provocative cycle of inquiry, dialogue, storytelling, and reflection to construct and to take action on new life affirming perspectives. The research expanded an understanding of how Appreciative Inquiry, a large-scale organizational intervention for positive change, can be translated to facilitate an integrated transformative learning experience for the client within the context of the life coaching relationship.