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Saturday, May 29, 2010

29. This Teaching Life (2) Meeting Dean

No matter how bound we humans may feel - shackled by our upbringing, our habits, our strengths and shortcomings, our vision and our blindness, by the expectations of other, and by the expectations we place upon ourselves - there is a creative spirit within us, there is a soul within us, that can be freed.

An old friend - Peta Heywood - from the Education Faculty at Latrobe University - rang me about four weeks ago:
'Can you help me? I'm trying to find a placement for a Master of Teaching student. He needs to do a ten week internment. You don't have to supervise his teaching; he's a graduate student - he has a Dip.Ed, and he has registration. He needs to teach at least 10 classes a week - more if possible. You will be his mentor, and advise him about the Action Research project he's required to do.'
There must be a catch, I thought.
'Is that all?' I asked.
'Oh - the school receives a payment for your involvement.'

As his name suggests, Dean Damatopoulos comes from a Greek background. He is 22, and became engaged at the end of his first week in the school. He's teaching two days a week at a Greek school in Oakleigh. Dean indicated that his wants to research Appreciative Pedagogy. I'd never heard of it.

Deam is young, inexperienced, hard working, friendly, and open to suggestion. He sat in on classes for two days, then started teaching my year 8 and 9 classes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

So, what is 'appreciative pedagogy'?

I’ve begun reading a background paper on Appreciative Pedagogy (AP). It’s by Yballe and O’Connor, and sets out the basic principles.

Leodones Yballe & Dennis O’Connor : Le Moyne College

Appreciative Inquiry

AP grew out of AI (Appreciative Inquiry), an approach to organisational change and renewal developed in the early 1990s by Copperider. Several ideas underlie Appreciative Inquiry:
• In particular, the generative power of positive imaging.
He argues that positive images (ideals and vision) have a “heliotropic effect”; that is, they energize and orient human behavior toward the realization of the ideal.

The approach involves establishing an image of the organisation. The image should be drawn from both people’s accumulated experiences of the best of what is (i.e., their peak experiences and moments of heightened energy, success, and pride) ... These experiences contain the threads with which organizational members can weave a common dream—the positive image of what can be.

• The methodology involves a social process of inquiry and joint discovery. Usually carried out by organizational members themselves through face-to-face interviews, the process legitimizes everyone’s curiosity about what works for self and others and allows the unveiling of each other’s peak experiences.
Through this process, the organisation is able to develop a vision, one that is grounded in the reality of personal experiences. The focus of the approach is the positives. It is not problem focussed or diagnostic.

Appreciative Pedagogy

The key features of AP are:
• Valuing success as the building blocks of positive vision.
• Belief in the profound connection between positive vision and positive action.
• Valuing face-to-face inquiry

Yballe and O’Connor argue that AP can be applied at every level of schooling / teaching/learning, and set out to demonstrate

how AP provided ... a framework for identifying and highlighting student’s learning experiences, for extolling peak experiences as potential models of effective behavior, and for clarifying concepts and models in both undergraduate and MBA organizational behavior classes.

Finally, the writers argue that the are great benefits from an AP approach -
Some are immediate, and some are cumulative.

1. We have observed more energized and sustained interactions. ...

2. Students feel a sense of safety when publicly speaking up; they experience less fear and inhibition. The positive focus honors their experiences. When asked, “How did that go?”, students often respond in the following ways: “This made it easy to talk to someone about my best performances,” “I could talk for hours about my proudest moments,” or “When I talk about failures, I cover up many facts, even from myself.”

3. A fuller and hopeful view of the future (images of what they can be) emerges versus an empty view(what they should not be).With all this focus on the positive, many wonder what happens to negative experience. After all, life is not all roses.We believe that although negative experience may be useful in drawing attention to important issues, we ultimately learn best from what works well.

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