An Appreciative Inquiry: The Living Pedagogies of a Team of Counsellor Educators
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In higher education, pedagogy has tended to be the domain of individual educators. The possibilities for engaging collectively in relation to pedagogies have been underutilised (Kahn, Goodhew, Murphy & Walsh, 2013). This study involved me and a team of three counsellor educators delivering a bicultural counselling degree programme in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research project was informed by an appreciative inquiry approach investigating pedagogical practice from an individual and collective viewpoint. A three-phase inquiry comprising one-to-one interviews and two focus groups revealed that for these participants their understanding and articulation of pedagogy was resonant with Whitehead’s (1999) viewpoint of pedagogy as an educator’s living educational theory. As such, pedagogy is constructed in one’s lived-experiences of teaching and is the enactment of one’s deeply held ontological and relational values as they translate into educational principles for teaching practice. Appreciative inquiry’s focus on generative dialogical processes of relating enabled participants in this study to share their living educational theory with one another, to discover where there was shared meaning and alignment, and move seamlessly into co-creating realistic images for their future teaching together. Potential was glimpsed for the way in which considering pedagogy collectively at such depth can transform the development of curriculum and programmes. From this research a series of guidelines were produced for use in counsellor education and higher education more broadly. These guidelines are offered as a resource for teaching teams who wish to investigate their pedagogical practice as a team. They provide a way for individual educators to reflect on pedagogy and for collectives to engage in generative relational and co-constructing processes in relation to pedagogy. Similar guidelines for counsellor educators to use with student counsellors in the development of a form of living counselling theory are also offered as an outcome of this study. This is a unique study in a field that is relatively unchartered in its focus on pedagogical reflection and development as an individual and collective endeavour. It is particularly relevant for educators as we are teaching on programmes that are increasingly at the intersections of rich, diverse, plural and, at times competing pedagogies and where the potential to harness such diversity and plurality is vast.