How brilliant are we? Reflections on using Appreciative Action Research in higher education

Clark, S, Farquarheson, L, Collins, B and Diaz, A 2015, How brilliant are we? Reflections on using Appreciative Action Research in higher education , in: ECRM 2015 14th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies, 11th-12th June 2015, University of Malta.

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Strategies to enhance student experience and engagement typically have been based around reactionary responses to issues raised in quantitative surveys, such as the UK s National Student Survey (NSS). Whilst such approaches may be effective in identifying areas for improvement, they can create adversarial undercurrents that damage student-staff relationships. At Bournemouth University (BU), a counter-balancing injection of positivity has been provided by BU s Student Union (SUBU): students nominate staff for a You re Brilliant Award when they feel they have experienced service excellence. Drawing on the existing SUBU You re Brilliant Award information as a base, this research sought to understand: 1. What motivates and enables students to nominate staff for a You re Brilliant Award and what service excellence means to them; 2. Why recipients think that they received awards; 3. What enabled recipients to perform the excellent attitudes/behaviours and whether receiving the award changed their attitude/behaviour; and, 4. Key lessons can be derived from these excellent experiences to promote good practice. Appreciative Action Research (AAR) is the methodology underpinning the research. This has been chosen to highlight the lived experience of staff and students in a Higher Education (HE) environment and the approach enabled identification and dissemination of positive stories, which in turn can promote positive change and service improvement. Narrative touch-points were used in the interviews whereby the interviewers asked participants to identify key incidents/situations that relate to brilliant staff-student interactions and selected emotion words to describe these. The interviewer guided participants to explore and describe the situations and the narratives were thus used to derive meaningful experiences and stories. This method involved significant skills in both interviewing and observation so all interviewers (students and staff) were briefed prior to undertaking the research. The research builds on the practical use of AAR which is underpinned by appreciative inquiry (Kavanagh et al, 2008; Reed, 2007; Cooperrider et al, 2008) and has most recently been championed by Dewar and colleagues (e.g. Dewar and Sharp, 2013) in the health sector. It also draws on Action Research as part of the organisational development field (Coghlan & Brannick, 2014; Landry-Meyer, 1999). Appreciative Action Research has enabled the collaborative process of research to, in itself, be a positive outcome. Thus research of this type can foster consideration of what works well, thereby promoting culture change and continuous improvement. We report results from a postresearch debrief discussion in which the AAR method itself was used to reflect on the practice, value and challenges of Appreciative Action Research in the HE context. Therefore, this paper will both present the key findings of the research itself about what made student-staff interactions brilliant in order to show the depth and type of information gained from this research method and also reflect on the use and applicability of the approach as a vehicle to improve service in the HE context. The team will offer some key practice points for anyone who seeks to use this approach for their research.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Additional Information: Winner of Best Poster award at conference
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Journal or Publication Title: ECRM 2015 - Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies
Publisher: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited
ISBN: 9781910810118 (print); 9781910810125 (ebook)
ISSN: 2049-0968
Depositing User: USIR Admin
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 14:06
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:42

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