How are we doing? Appreciative Inquiry-style evaluations.

by Deb Gurke 4 Comments January 9, 2011

Successful school districts take accountability seriously and strive to cultivate a culture that values continuous improvement. School boards can model their commitment to these ideas by engaging in regular self-evaluation, in addition to completing timely evaluations of their superintendent. With the focus on technology and data collection it is easy to lose sight of the most important component of evaluation—the conversations that occur around performance and possibility.

Many of us think of evaluation as a form that needs to be completed, with numbers or scales to check off levels of performance. Often what is lacking is meaningful conversation about past successes and areas for future growth.

No matter what system you use to complete evaluation, it should be based on the needs of your district. An effective way to ensure that the conversation is meaningful is to use a model based on Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which, engages individuals within an organizational system in its renewal, change and focused performance. Rather than focusing on problems, AI is built on the idea that an organization that appreciates what is best in itself will find/discover more and more of what is good.

You can use state standards, NSBA’s Key Work of School Boards, or some other set of criteria to get the conversation going and to assess where your board stands. Then create goals to build on strengths and address areas of opportunity. Use the AI process to evaluate progress.

Here is a list of questions that you can use in an Appreciative Inquire-style evaluation process. Use notes taken during the meeting to write a narrative that can be kept on file.


  • (1) Prior to reflecting on these questions review your Position Description and annual goals. Bring suggested revisions to the dialogue session (for boards, it can be goals that were established the previous year, components of the NSBA  Key Work framework, or some other mutually agreed upon standards).
  • (2) Thinking about the last year, describe a time(s) when you felt the most excited, engaged and involved in your work as a board member/superintendent.


  • (3) What were the key elements that made the above a peak time(s) or experience(s)?
  • (4) What things do you wish had worked better in the last year?
  • (5) What have you learned from these experiences?
  • (6) (Optional) Again, thinking about the last year, what stands out for you in your working relationship with the rest of the board?


  • (7) What ideas do you have for making the key elements identified above (Question 3) more a part of your everyday work experience as a board member/superintendent?
  • (8) What first steps do we need to take to make these ideas/dreams a reality?
    What steps do we need to take to help with those things you wish had worked better?
  • (9) What things can the board do to help with these steps?
  • (10) What additional comments or observations would you like to make about this past year?

You can read more about Deb’s thoughts on governance and leadership development at her blog.

Click here to download the pdf of this blog!

Categories: Accountability, Evaluations, Evaluations, Leadership, Planning, TransparencyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
4 Comments to “How are we doing? Appreciative Inquiry-style evaluations.”
  1. avatar Diane Sandifer says:

    I agree with your comments about evaluations in a school system. It is the action plan that is developed from the evaluation that completes the process. The leadership team’s gathering to discuss the past year with its successes and challenges is critical. Communication and relationships are the foundation for the leadership team. Using an evaluation instrument, collaborating to complete it, and acting upon the evaluation are vital to solid governance.

  2. avatar Andy Smith says:

    Thanks Deb,

    Nice to see an alternative format for using AI to the standard 4-D and 4-I models. This one might go down better with more ‘left-brained’ users as it uses terminology they are already familiar with.

    Andy Smith

  3. avatar sabina says:

    I want to know who i supposed to go to for hrlp when i have a problem with the schools staff pickin on my kid???? I have spoken to the superintendent and he tells me to take to the principal of the school.I dont know what to do but something has got to give I am sick of all the bull I cant even work ith out being called please someone help me

  4. […] Gurke has written an interesting article about how school boards can use AI for self-evaluation, in a way that restores “the most important component of evaluation – the conversations […]

Leave a Reply