The effect of appreciative inquiry on student engagement and attendance in the community college

Frances Virginia Turner Robbins


This mixed-methods research study investigated the effects of Appreciative Inquiry on student-course engagement and attendance in core academic classes at a community college in central Mississippi. In an increasingly competitive global economy, most individuals need education or technical skills beyond high school to secure employment offering self-supporting wages. However, graduation and completion rates at colleges and universities show many students who embark on the education journey do not successfully reach their goals. Researchers (Friedman, Rodriguez, & McComb, 2001) suggest poor attendance rates remain linked to lower student engagement and contribute to student attrition. Attrition, in turn, lowers enrollment, hinders institutional reputation, and reduces institutional vitality (Miller, 2003). Several community colleges across the United States employ Appreciative Inquiry, a strengths-based organizational development model, to improve attendance and student engagement (Stetson, 2008). However, little empirical research exists to describe the impact of Appreciative Inquiry use in the classroom. This study adds to the research literature by empirically examining the effects of Appreciative Inquiry on student attendance and course engagement. The study employed a static group comparison quantitative design to contrast attendance rates and student course engagement scores of students in classes using Appreciative Inquiry and students in non-AI classes. Faculty members submitted qualitative data throughout the semester via summary reports of Appreciative Inquiry implementation, as well as through a post-semester focus group. Quantitative statistics used in data analysis included independent samples t-test and chi-square tests, while identification of recurring concepts in a focus group discussion served as the qualitative analysis method. Quantitative and qualitative data were integrated and compared to determine the impact of Appreciative Inquiry on attendance and student-course engagement in the community college classroom.