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This qualitative grounded theory study updated the framework, including a definition, of Appreciative Administration. Bloom et al. (2013) first introduced the concept of Appreciative Education in a New Directions for Student Services article. Appreciative Education’s framework is harnessed by the power of the organizational development theory of Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987), the relationship-building theory-to-practice framework of Appreciative Advising (Bloom & Martin, 2002; Bloom et al., 2008), and an Appreciative Mindset. Bloom and McClellan (2016) coined the phrase Appreciative Administration to describe how higher education administrators could lead their organizations by harnessing the power of Appreciative Education. To date, there is no research on how higher education administrators are using Appreciative Education in their administrative practices.

The purpose of this grounded theory study was to examine how higher education administrators infuse the Appreciative Education framework into their daily administrative practices. The study included 21 professionals, who met the following criteria: (1) had at least one full-time person reporting to them; (2) had participated in a formal Appreciative Education training. The experiences of the 21 study participants were captured through semi-structured 60-minute Zoom interviews. Subsequently, eight of the 21 participants participated in a focus group via Zoom to provide feedback on the study’s initial themes and sub-themes. Data was analyzed through three rounds of coding: (1) initial coding, (2) focused coding, and (3) theoretical coding.

Three themes emerged from the analysis to develop the updated framework for Appreciative Administration showing how higher education administrators are infusing Appreciative Education into their daily administrative practices: establish trusting relationships, foster relationships to achieve personal and organizational goals, and “positive restlessness” (Kuh et al., 2005). After synthesis, I offer a new definition of Appreciative Administration. Appreciative Administration is, “fundamentally situated as a human experience and involves the intentional, consistent, and aspirational practice of establishing trusting relationships in which team members’ strengths and skills are identified and leveraged to co-create and achieve personal and organizational goals.”

The findings of this grounded theory study may be helpful for higher education institutions and administrators looking for a framework to lead their institutions. This study may also inform administrators with information about how to provide professional development, recognize employees, create policy changes, make time to build trusting relationships, and develop pockets of greatness.


Florida Atlantic University


Boca Raton, FL


Student Affairs


This is Dr. Meagan Elsberry's dissertation, completed at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) for the Doctorate in Educational Leadership, Department of Educational Leadership and Research Methodology.



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