An appreciative inquiry case study: Recognizing the positive core of teachers in a low SES elementary school that met standard of excellence
The purpose of my study was to discover the successful teaching practices of teachers in a Standard of Excellence elementary school. My study also identified the necessary ecological conditions for the teachers to sustain and extend their successful teaching practices. Due to limited research on the study of successful teaching practices of teachers as it relates to student achievement, this study sought to describe the successful teaching practices of teachers in a SOE elementary school, and it sought to understand the conditions to help sustain and extend their successful teaching practices. The design of this study was a qualitative case study conducted through an appreciative inquiry theoretical perspective and capacity building theory. An appreciative inquiry theoretical perspective is an inquiry process that seeks to affirm and build on strengths and past successes of the participants to discover what gives life to their organization or its positive core. Capacity building theory encourages the conditions and opportunities for shared learning and collaboration. Participants were asked to volunteer to participate in various data collection methods: semi-structured paired interviews, focus groups, and participant created documents. Data were unitized, sorted, and coded through an open and axial coding process (which is a process of breaking down the data and then synthesizing it in a meaningful way) (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), using text analysis software (Ryan & Bernard, 2000) so that the participants’ perspectives were synthesized in a manner that allowed the research questions to be answered (Huberman, 1990). Content analysis simultaneously coded the content and constructs relevant categories (Merriam, 2001). CATPAC software was used as an initial foundation of reading text for the interrelationships between words allowing themes to emerge (Woelfel, 1990). Data was compared by categories, themes, or dimensions of information (Creswell, 1998). Participants were guided through two phases of the AI 4-D Cycle of discovery and dream. Detailed field notes were taken and information was collected from multiple perspectives. Five salient findings emerged from the data analysis: (1) Lincoln Elementary School is a cohesive group of educators who seek to help students reach their potential; (2) Lincoln Elementary School educators collaborate to strengthen and enhance instructional practices; (3) Lincoln Elementary School educators value and care about all school stakeholders; (4) Lincoln Elementary School educators created an inclusive community bound by strong interpersonal relationships; (5) Lincoln Elementary School educators want to create a learning environment that is student centered and family oriented where teachers use progressive practices in teaching students. The findings from my research suggested that the appreciative inquiry process has the potential to change teachers’ pedagogical practices and the conditions for the practices to sustain. Using an appreciative inquiry process in this research study empowered participants and sparked a new vision of optimism, hope, and a passion for teaching. All the findings from this study have the potential to transform how educators meet the demands of school accountability and look to sustain high performance by describing the successful teaching practices and the ecological conditions needed to sustain and extend these practices.