Schools as Learning Communities? Leadership through Appreciative Inquiry
This paper outlines evidence emphasizing the importance of educational leaders prioritizing the development of ‘learning communities’ within the staff and students at their schools. It suggests that although schools are most certainly institutes of learning in terms of the classroom processes they create for their students, that there is some question as to whether schools as organisations be accurately described as “learning communities”? It goes on to describe an innovative leadership project that involved the directors of adolescent focused NGO’s (non government organisations) in Aotearoa New Zealand where leaders used Appreciative Inquiry (AI) processes to explore their own leadership through the development of a ‘learning community’. This article focuses on how the two guiding principles of “positive focus” and “collaboration” enabled growth trajectories where participants gained agency to co-create a highly productive learning space. Five key strategies are identified namely, flexible and negotiated structure, sharing powerful stories, cycles of exploration, individual and collective reflection and significant time frame. The paper then makes suggestions for how these strategies could be used in the development of such a ‘learning community’ in a school setting.