Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Steven R. Staples


This study's purpose was to describe appreciative inquiry (AI) as an approach to strategic planning for special education in a public school. The study investigated four research questions. How do plans for special education emerge as participants engage in the four phases of AI during strategic planning for the future of special education in a public school district? What were participants' experiences and perceptions of AI as a method to develop strategic plans for the future of special education? to what extent did participants' experiences using AI mirror the philosophical principles of AI? to what extent did using AI to develop strategic plans align with Bryson's (2010) predictions for the future of strategic planning in the next decade? The study utilized a descriptive mixed method case study approach to collect data through focus groups, artifacts, and surveys from twelve special education subcommittee members as they used AI to develop strategic plans for special education. The study's findings revealed that AI: (a) produced organizational learning, (b) fostered individual and collective analysis, (c) offered the time and space for positive dialogue, (d) promoted strategic thinking, (e) facilitated the creation of a collectively imagined vision and mission, (f) increased subcommittee members' commitment, (g) encouraged collaboration through positive dialogue and a unique positive focus, and (h) offered a logical and inclusive process to develop plans. The study may offer public school districts a concrete model for strategic planning and educational leaders an approach to change grounded in AI theory and practice.



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