From Appreciative Inquiry to Fish bones

Last week I attended a workshop at Hertfordshire University as part of the ESCAPE project (Effecting Sustainable Change in Assessment Practice and Experience). We are working with the project team in developing an Appreciative Inquiry approach to evaluation.

If you've not come across Appreciative Inquiry (AI) before, it's an approach to transformational change that focuses on the positive. It was developed by David Cooperrider in the 1980's, and has seen growing interest more recently. Essentially, "AI is based on the simple assumption that every organisation has something that works well and these strengths can be the starting point for creating positive change" (Appreciative Inquiry Handbook by Cooperrider, Whitney & Stavros, 2008).

Preskill and Catsambas have taken AI and refined it for evaluation purposes. This figure gives an overview of how they see the four stages of AI. The ESCAPE team have already undertaken AI interviews to discover what staff really value. The workshop was an opportunity to continue with the Imagine, and Innovate or Design stages. There were presentations on innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and then staff set about imagining what might be possible for their own courses.

Before the workshop, I had seen this post by AI consulting on how fish bone analysis might be used within the Design stage of AI. This looked like a great way of mapping out what could be done in a quick and visual way. So, I adapted this approach for my session at the ESCAPE workshop. With a goal or "possibility statement" in mind, staff were asked to identify what they have to have in place to make the goal happen. It was suggested that staff use Technology, Processes, People, Materials, Culture, Management, and Support from the ESCAPE team as the 'bones' of the fish.

Here's an example of one of the fish bone posters. I was really impressed with the results!

Some people went on to thinking how these actions could be mapped out in a time line. It was great to see how that acted as a motivator by setting out how positive goals might be achieved in the mid to longer term.

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Blogger Andy Smith said...

Hi Rachel,

I'm really excited to see this AI fishbone adaptation being taken up - why not also leave a comment on our original blog posting at It may lead more people to your blog as well.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Andy Smith said...

Just to let you know that my article that you kindly reference above has moved - it's now at

12:08 PM  

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