Students undertake Appreciative Inquiry research

Students from all Schools and at all levels of study, are undertaking Appreciative Inquiry research into Assessment and Feedback and Inclusive Learning and Teaching within the University. This project is being supported by the Students’ Guild and CLIPP.

Appreciative Inquiry is an approach to gaining effective engagement of staff with important issues. It achieves this through focusing systematically on what the staff are doing well in relation to the issue under consideration. It is a powerful tool to effect change and often used in business – to make improvements from consideration of existing good practice.

The recruited student researchers attended a workshop about Appreciative Inquiry and its use in Higher Education.  Students worked together to formulate key topics of discussion for the focus groups and interviews with students in their schools of study.

Rehana Yasin, Guild Vice President (Education & Welfare) has had a key role in this student led project has given Aspects her views regarding this initiative.

Why is the Students’ Guild using appreciative inquiry?

When campaigning to be elected as Vice President for Education and Welfare I was aware that assessment and feedback was an issue at Aston and had been so for a number of years. When I came into this position I wanted to look at different ways of getting more information about assessment and feedback. After attending the first curriculum and learner development working group it became apparent that Dr Anne Wheeler had a similar interest and introduced the idea of using Appreciative Inquiry. We felt that two key areas to focus on should be assessment and feedback and inclusivity especially because of the diversity here at Aston and wanted to hear about students positive experiences.

Appreciative Inquiry looks at the issue in a more positive way and moves away from a problem focused approach. Instead of focusing on what wasn’t working and what the causes of the problems are, we are focusing on what is working so we can build on our strengths across all disciplines within Aston. 

It was felt that Appreciative Inquiry was constructive and that staff would be more receptive especially because the data would be collected by students themselves and that this would help induce a culture change within the institution.

What does the Students’ Guild hope to achieve from using appreciative inquiry?

The main purpose of this project is to share and publicise examples of good practice at Aston so that others can aspire to be like those schools who are leading the way in terms of effective feedback and inclusive practice. Data gathered so far is only the first steps in Appreciative Inquiry. The students have only completed the discovery phase where we appreciate and value good practices. The rest is up to the staff and we hope that they will help continue with the inquiry through the dream phase; taking part in envisioning ‘what might be’ in their own schools and the design phase where staff collaborate in co -constructing ideas to strengthen their own practice . 

Overall, we hope that the inquiry will help improve the experience of students at Aston through improving feedback to students at Aston University across all disciplines and further embedding effective inclusive practices in Learning and Teaching, assessment and curriculum design throughout all academic departments within Aston.


There will be an event for staff on Wednesday 21 April at 1pm in MB644 when the students will be presenting the results of their research.

The presentation event will be followed by a short workshop for staff on how they can use the results of the interviews and focus groups within their own Schools of Study and departments to enhance the student experience. Staff are encouraged to attend this important initiative by the students.

Lunch will be provided from 12:30pm.

Words by Matt Daley