Home All Three Areas of Appreciative Education (Conference)

Three Areas of Appreciative Education (Conference)

written by Susanna Wu-Pong 5 March 2015

Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong, MAPP '14 is Associate Professor and Director of Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virgina. She has a passion for positive psychology, training, and development. Dr. Wu-Pong is a 2005 graduate of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, former Program Coordinator for VCU Leadership (GEHLI), and fellow of the 2010-11 AACP Academic Fellow Leadership Program. Full bio. Susanna's articles are here.


AE site

The Appreciative Education Conference took place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on January 4-7 2015.

Dr. Jennifer Bloom

Dr. Jennifer Bloom

What is Appreciative Education (AE)?

According to Jennifer Bloom, conference organizer and Professor and Director of the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program at the University of South Carolina, AE aims to improve education in K-12 through higher education by providing “an intentional and positive approach to bettering educational enterprises by focusing on the strengths and potential of individuals and organizations to accomplish co-created goals.”

This conference is the inaugural, First Annual Appreciative Education conference. The meeting was extremely well-organized and had a very successful turnout of 160 participants for its first year. There were 4 concurrent sessions during the day, which spanned 2.5 days. Participants were included academic advisors, educators, and administrators from K-12 through higher education and beyond.

Appreciative Education primarily focuses on the following 3 areas: leadership (AL), instruction (AIn) and advising (AA).

Appreciative Leadership (AL)

The dominant presence on the topic of AL was the authors of the groundbreaking book, Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education, Joan McArthur-Blair and Jeanie Cockell. Joan and Jeanie led two really fabulous sessions on this topic. Their view of AL can be summarized by the following statement that Joan read from their book: “leadership for us has been an enduring study of what it means to work with others to create positive change, to flounder at times and to believe leadership is a place that you never arrive.” They described the task of leadership as lifting up the work of others and “blowing soft wind” onto a strength.

In addition, they discussed the notion of critical AI, that is, what comprises the most important role of the AI process in education. According to the Jeanie and Joan, all work in education should be for the purposes of emancipation, social change, and challenging systemic issues. In other words, one should constantly ask the question: Is this experience bringing freedom or justice? I loved the lofty notion of this idea. Now I feel I can aim higher and in different directions when setting forth my goals.

An example of the transformational work of AL in education was described by Jacquelyn Penner regarding her institution, Medicine HAT college in Alberta, Canada. The university was called out in a very public way in a scathing government audit about the mismanagement of the organization. They decided to remake their organization since they had nothing to lose. They had engaged McArthur-Blair and Cockell in AI strategic planning over the previous 4 month period. Key principles for organizational transformation include meaningful, widespread engagement, valued input of external stakeholders, transparency with ongoing open communication, visible commitment of senior leadership, and embracing planning and accountability as a cultural practice. This new approach especially was helpful for enhancing human relationships. The change leaders invested time educating people about AI concepts and vocabulary in order to enable the change.

Though it is too early to report final outcomes, the initial faculty reaction was mixed. They expect there will be some faculty turnover as a result of this culture change. I feel they are off to a very sound and exciting start.

Appreciative Instruction (AIn)

I only attended one Appreciative Instruction (AIn) session on the topic of technology presented by Ben Forsche from Ohio State University. Forsche advises that technology is a medium, not a substitute, for teaching and advising. He gave several examples of useful technology including groupme for group texting, jing for screen capture software into a video, and Apps Gone Free to find free apps. He mentioned finding an awesome free mindmapping app there.

I’m somewhat of a technophobe but felt empowered afterwards to go try something new!

Appreciative Advising (AA)

Appreciative Advising (AA) is the intentional collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions designed to help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potential. Appreciative advisors are coaches that help students understand their values, interests, purpose and passion.

AA relies on 6 instead of 4 Ds: Disarm, discover, dream, design, deliver, don’t settle. Discover, dream, and design are similar to Appreciative Inquiry’s 4 Ds. Disarm involves creating a positive first impression to create a safe and welcoming environment for the student. Deliver means following through on plans with the support of the appreciative advisor. Don’t settle refers to the educator challenging students to raise their self-expectations.

UNC Greensboro studied the impact of AA on students with dismissal contracts. These students’ rate of return to school rose from 33 to 90%, and GPAs rose from 1.29 to 2.86 with AA coaching. Other universities such as the University of South Carolina (USC) and Florida Atlantic University use AA. Those who wish to acquire training to become appreciative advisors can take the Appreciative Advising course, deadline for registration May 1.

See also my personal takeaways from the Appreciative Education conference.



Bloom, J., Hutson, B., & He, Y. (2008). The Appreciative Advising Revolution. Stipes Publishing.

Bloom, J., Hutson, B., & He, Y. (2014). The Appreciative Advising Revolution Training Workbook: Translating Theory to Practice. Stipes Publishing.

Bloom, J., Hutson, B., He, Y., & Robinson, C. (2011). Appreciative College Instruction: Becoming a Force for Positive Change in Student Success Courses. Stipes Publishing.

Cockell, J. & McArthur-Blair, J. (2012). Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education: A Transformative Force. San Francisco: Jossey-Basse.

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