Co-Creating Schools of the Future through Appreciative Inquiry
In the Spring of 2008, two school district administrators embarked on a journey to explore how asset based conversations made possible through a process of Appreciative Inquiry might help a community to examine its schools, determine what is of greatest value to continue doing, and generate possibilities for action and innovation in order to better prepare students for a future world.
Energetic Learning Campus – The Story
This is a seven minute description of the journey to the “Energetic Learning Campus” along with the voices of some students, parents and staff.
Appreciative Inquiry emerged as a topic of interest in the professional dialogue of British Columbia School Superintendents during the 2005/2006 school year: Here was a process that clearly aligned with our desire to honor the experience and work with the strengths of our teachers and school administrators. Here was a process that provided the structure for bringing together the diverse voices of staff, students, parents, and community members. Here was a process that could not only help us to clarify a common vision for the future of our schools but to identify the very practical next steps we could take to move us in that direction.
As we learned more, we were energized and excited by the ideas surrounding AI. Subsequently, we decided to hold an AI event. During our AI event, students participated in a full-day forum, during which they worked through exercises for the Discovery and Dream stages of the inquiry. Adults (including staff, parents, and community members) attended two evening sessions, each lasting three hours. In the first session they worked through the Discovery exercises and in the second they worked through the Dream exercises. Each session was repeated over three days, providing adults with a choice of dates for which to enroll. Discovery and Dream sessions were offered three weeks apart.
The inquiry culminated in a weekend summit focusing on the Design and Destiny stages. Students and adults came together for the summit, which took place on a Friday evening and Saturday. The summit was scheduled one month after the Dream sessions. A total of 270 participants, including staff, students, parents and community members took part.
The Pomeroy Sports Center quickly became a community hub. The city reports that almost one thousand people aged eight to eighty, are using the walking/running track on a daily basis. The ELC will be part of the hub. Large windows will allow community members to see learning activities as they happen. Students will use the track and ice surfaces for daily physical activity and plans are in place for intergenerational fitness/learning opportunities. Student learning is integrated with the community, in order to provide real-world experiences and opportunities for learning and growth across a number of dimensions. Creative and critical thinking is a prominent goal in our education program.
The ELC is located on the first floor of the Sports Center and offers a variety of learning spaces including a wet area, a learning studio and an area for large group presentations and presentations of student learning. Technology at the ELC will be cutting edge. Computers will be available at a 2:1 student/computer ratio.
Meet the Taos Associates Responsible for this Project:
Lesley Lehaye, Ph.D.
Lesley Lahaye has recently retired from her position of Assistant Superintendent with a public school system in a rural area of northeast British Columbia. She has over thirty years’ experience as a special education teacher and district administrator. She is now working as an independent consultant in Educational Leadership.
Lesley worked with colleague Larry Espe on a collaborative action research project and co-authored their dissertation: Co-creating Schools of the Future: Approaching Change in a Canadian Public School System Through Appreciative Inquiry.
The dissertation questions whether the traditional practices in public education are continuing to serve us well. It explores how asset based conversations made possible through a process of Appreciative Inquiry might help a community to examine its schools, determine what is of greatest value to continue doing, and generate possibilities for action and innovation in order to better prepare students for a future world.
Larry Espe is school superintendent of a district located in northeastern British Columbia, Canada. He has been a teacher, principal and district administrator for almost thirty years.
His recent focus has been on the development of an appreciative leadership philosophy in the district that will support change in a pro-active and asset based way. He has developed a keen appreciation for the power of semantics and the constructionist view that “words create worlds.” He believes that public education will require three critical elements if it hopes to keep up with the needs of society in the 21st Century: 1) Relationships of warmth and connection, 2) high quality interactive and engaging pedagogy, and 3) a dramatic shift in business as usual.
He and colleague Lesley Lahaye co-wrote (co-created) their dissertation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org