Creating Virtuous Cycles:Using Appreciative Inquiry as a Framework for Educational Psychology Consultations with Young People

  • Karen Harris

Student thesis: Phd


This research project explores and evaluates the usefulness of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a methodological framework for Educational Psychology consultations with young people. A significant part of the role of an Educational Psychologist (EP) can be to hold consultations with young people in secondary schools who are perceived to be experiencing difficulties or challenges. These difficulties can often prevent young people from engaging positively in the learning opportunities available to them putting them at risk of under achievement and possible exclusion from school. AI is more commonly known as an organisational development methodology, however by drawing explicitly from the philosophical and theoretical paradigms of social constructionism and the social model of disability, this project's unique contribution to knowledge is to reconfigured AI as a framework to engender the inclusion and participation of young people in identifying positive changes at school. AI is a change methodology that begins with the premise that within any system or organisation there already exist success, positive experiences, and strengths that are life giving and life affirming. The nature of the exploration is centred on uncovering narrative accounts of what is already working in order to inform any future change.The project was based within a secondary school and was designed specifically to run concurrently with an 'in house' programme of support run by the school's Learning Mentor, so that data from the AI consultations could be used to inform and support the work of the Learning Mentor. The findings (both content and process) indicated that AI consultations with students can support their inclusion and participation. Students identified change through co-constructing alternative narratives that challenged the 'authority' view of the students' difficulties. The process of using AI as a methodology in this way is described as a multidirectional cycle (differing from traditional AI cycles which are presented as unidirectional). Being fluid, flexible and emancipatory the AI consultation framework is considered both useful and appropriate in providing an epistemological basis for Educational Psychology practice.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGarry Squires (Supervisor) & Ann Lendrum (Supervisor)


  • Appreciative Inquiry, Educational Psychology, indiviudal consultation
  • social constructionism, participatory action research

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