Date of Award

Spring 2011

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michael Middleton


Schools and youth development programs are continually under pressure to reform and improve. Recent scholarship in the organizational development field suggests that a post modern approach to such efforts may yield new and generative results. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an Action Research methodology used for organizational development that is based on a number of post modern assumptions. Because AI has seen a rapid increase in use, including implementations in educational settings, and because of its potential to offer new insights into organizational development, a further understanding of how it works is warranted.

This interpretive case study, grounded in a social constructionist conceptual framework, uses a discourse analysis methodology to explore the linguistic possibilities AI offers participants. By exploring the presence of accounts, repair sequences, and the use of laughter and humor within the discourse recorded during an AI process facilitated by the researcher at an alternative school, the study empirically demonstrates the presence of an appreciative interpretive repertoire (or way of talking) as evidence of the AI process at work. The appreciative approach is not fully accepted however, and the implications of this partial rejection are discussed in relation to the stressed and often crisis driven nature of schools and programs serving alternative populations. Also discussed is the mediating influence on AI of a broader and complimentary Positive Youth Development Discourse previously present at the school and likely present in other similar schools and programs as well.