Asking Powerful Questions

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Appreciative inquiry (AI) is an energizing approach for sparking positive change in people, groups, and organizations. It focuses on what is working well (appreciative) by engaging people in asking questions and telling stories (inquiry). The shift in focus to the positive and what is working well generates energy within the group or organization, allowing it to move more effectively toward its goals. As well as a process for facilitating positive change, AI is a way of being and seeing the world everyday.  (Cockell and McArthur-Blair, 2012, p. 13)

I have been inspired by this year’s Educational Developers Caucus (EDC) conference over many discussions related to asking powerful questions.  In the words of this year’s keynote speaker, Joan McArthur-Blair, “Positive questions inspire positive change.”  One of the things that I have quickly learned in the field of educational development and in my leadership roles is that it is often (if not always) better to ask a thoughtful question than to provide advice.  Although we may not always label it as appreciative inquiry, I have come to a deep understanding that educational developers are great at asking positive, solution-focused questions.  These questions form the basis of our practice.  They are inherent not only to our approaches, but to our sense of being. Through questions we seek to help others (whether it be individuals, programs or institutions) to identify and leverage their full potential, to awaken the passion within, to continuously improve, and, perhaps most importantly, to provide a sense of meaning and purpose to their everyday practices within higher education.  There is little doubt that this is an interesting and transformative time in higher education.  Change is occurring at unprecedented rates, and institutions are increasingly looking to the field of educational development to support the academic community in evidencing and communicating their many successes, identifying future possibilities and opportunities for growth and improvement, and determining key actions for moving forward.  Our most potent call to action may be in asking powerful questions that connect individuals and communities through meaningful dialogue and conversation.

Below are some questions that have been pondered throughout the conference thus far.  What are some of the most powerful questions you ask in your ED practice?

  • What already exists that has value? What is the best of what already is?
  • If that is the issue, what are you yearning for?
  • What is the greatest strength that you have brought to the organization?
  • Where inside the organization do we have high engagement?
  • What does a highly connected, highly engaged academic community look like?
  • What will we be in 2020?
  • What would you be if learners were first?
  • Tell a story about the best experience you had last semester.
  • Tell a story of a moment, however tiny, when you felt excited coming to work.
  • What are you already doing in your organization that matters?
  • What is the most powerful and successful learning experience that you have ever had?
  • What are you yearning for?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow morning at 9am?
  • What is the proudest thing that you did in the last 3 years to help support our strategic plan?
  • What is the best thing that happened to you today?
  • If I imagine myself at work tomorrow, what is one thing that I will do differently?
  • How do you express what matters to you?
  • What has your time in education taught you?
  • Where have you had the most influence?
  • What is the most powerful gift you are giving to your organization right now?
  • How do you lift up the hearts and minds of faculty, staff and students within your institutions, to do their work in a way they never imagined?
  • What will your organization be calling on you to do in the next 10 years?
  • How can educational developers be revolutionary?
  • What are your options? What choices do you have moving forward? What is in your control?
  • What did you learn/discover?
  • What will you do differently next time?
  • What is the most important thing for you moving forward?
  • What key actions will you take based on this feedback?

References:

Cockell, Jeanie, & McArthur-Blair, Joan. (2012). Appreciative Inquiry in higher education: A transformative force: John Wiley & Sons.

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