The Soul of Teaching and Professional Learning: An Appreciative Inquiry into the Enneagram of Reflective Practice

March 2007

Source: Educational Action Research, Volume 15, Issue 1  March 2007 ,
pages 127 - 145


This paper makes a contribution to the theory and practice of educational action research by introducing two theoretical and methodological resources as part of a personal review of sustained professional experience: 'appreciative inquiry' and the 'enneagram'.

It is more than a theoretical exercise, however, because it also constitutes an action-oriented reflection on the transitional nature of the author's professional situation, moving from work as a school-based primary school teacher and head teacher to work as a consultant.

It is thus a distillation of past experience and a vision of how professional learning might be supported in the future. In the first part, appreciative inquiry is introduced as an associated form of action research methodology that follows four successive stages of discovery, dream, design and destiny around an affirmative topic choice.


The author then explains his choice of the enneagram as a useful life-affirming tool for self-understanding in personal and professional development and how it might be used to stimulate reflexive awareness of the inner work of teaching. Thirdly, in the discovery stage, the author uses the enneagram to engage in a sequence of nine short mediations that seek to appreciate the positive core of teaching from the inside and celebrate the intimate experience of teaching according to nine distinct modes of consciousness.

Fourthly, the author builds on the range of teaching strengths revealed by the enneagram by engaging in the dream stage of appreciative inquiry that evokes an imaginative envisioning of the kind of reflective practice the world is calling for from teachers. Finally, the author concludes by looking ahead to the design and destiny stages, reflecting on the need to explore the implications of the inquiry for systematic forms of practitioner research and appropriate kinds of tutorial support for professional learning.

Updated: Jan. 07, 2008