An evaluative case study of an Appreciative Inquiry process for futures planning with the College of Education at a public university in Tennessee
Schools, colleges, and departments of education must deal with accelerating change that is affecting the society-at-large, the academic environment, and both internal and external stakeholders. There is increasing demand to effectively prepare educational leaders. Methods for successful strategic/futures planning and implementation are needed. This evaluative case study explored the use of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in futures planning with the College of Education (COE) at a public university in Tennessee. The research addressed methods for implementing an AI futures planning process, evaluation of its effectiveness, and the participants' perceptions of its high points. The primary data for the case study are archival documents collected throughout the first 18 months of the AI planning initiative.
Results indicate that the methodology of the Al Futures Planning Process involved a strong focus on Al philosophy and the 4-D process. The structure of meetings included: (a) support for team formation, (b) provision of professional growth experience to increase understanding and internalization the Al approach, (c) preparation for the futures planning process, (d) evaluation of the meeting and progress towards goals, and (e) clarification of next steps. Attention to the implementation phase was critical. Planning was aligned with multiple characteristics of current strategic planning models and Kezar and Eckel's core strategies for transformational change. The COE's process met the criteria of the Core Team's definition of success and a successful futures planning process. Multiple stakeholders co-created a Futures Plan that is being implemented and continually updated. The Core Team and participants noted the following high points: (a) sense of inclusion; (b) increased awareness of community; (c) equity of voice; (d) collaboration; (e) positive energy, creativity, ownership, and commitment; and (f) definition of goals and creation of plans.
This model can potentially serve as a general framework for those involved in the use of AI for futures planning in higher education. It supports a strong focus on the implementation stage of the change process and on the continuing use and incorporation of the AI approach into ongoing strategic work. Further research can determine the effectiveness and adaptability of this model in other settings and contexts.
0745: Higher education