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Title: Appreciative inquiry and looked after children
Author: Woollam, Kimberley Louise
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2010
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Looked after children (LAC) have been identified as one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our education system (Sempik, Ward, & Darker, 2008); they are at risk of failing to achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes (DFES, 2004), and, there are particular concerns regarding low levels of academic achievement (DCSF, 2009). Much of the research regarding LAC is from a deficit perspective and attempts to justify the poor outcomes reported; only recently has attention been paid to identifying what works well in schools to promote achievement. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) proposed by Cooperrider & Srivastva (1987) is an affirmatively focused method of research and development which challenges traditional problem-solving approaches (Grant & Humphries, 2006); it seeks to discover the existing strengths and successes within an organisation to inspire change (Espinosa, Roebuck, & Rohe, 2002). Whilst the efficacy of AI has been demonstrated within organisational and healthcare settings there is a dearth of literature evidencing the efficacy of AI in educational settings. AI has not been used with LAC, or the professionals who work with them, and this approach has the potential to provide a new lens on this historically problematic area. This thesis proposed to identify key factors which have the greatest positive impact on the school experience of LAC, in secondary schools, through the use of AI. In doing so, this thesis also sought to explore the efficacy of AI as a research tool for working with LAC and school staff, and, to explore its potential for creating change. A single case study design was used involving one local authority secondary school. Participants attended semi-structured interviews aligned with the AI 4-D cycle; this was followed by a workshop session to explore findings and agree future actions. Further data was also collated through content analysis of the research interviews, participant evaluations and a research diary. Key themes were identified including: effective adult support, engaging learning opportunities, rewarding school systems, a safe and secure environment, good quality relationships, and the importance of normalising the school experience. A number of supplementary themes were also identified. AI was found to be an effective method of research; it appears to be an interactive and enabling approach, which considers both organisational successes and concerns. During the workshop a number of actions were identified to further improve the school experience and there is a high likelihood that change will occur. Implications for EP practice and areas for future research are also considered.
Supervisor: Woods, Kevin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Chi.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Appreciative Inquiry ; Looked After Children ; Secondary School