ERIC Identifier: ED315702
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Ellis, Thomas I.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Invitational Learning for Counseling and Development.
Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest.
Schools, like individuals, have "personalities"; these self-validating and
self-reinforcing characteristics do much to shape students' experience of school
and their attitudes toward learning. If the general tone of a school is hostile,
mistrustful, or forbidding, students are likely to become alienated and
discouraged, despite the best efforts of individual teachers and counselors.
Conversely, if a school is cheerful, respectful, and inviting toward both
students and parents, and if this inviting manner is manifest in every detail of
instruction, program design, policy, staff behavior, and decor, students will
likewise respond accordingly, and their experience of school will be rewarding
and memorable. This is the basic idea behind the concept of Invitational
WHAT IS INVITATIONAL LEARNING?
Invitational Learning is a
remarkably direct but evocative model of schooling developed by William W.
Purkey. The aim, as Purkey says, is to make school "the most inviting place in
town" by emphasizing mutual respect and human potential in every aspect of
schooling--people, places, policies, and programs. The invitational approach to
education is predicated on four fundamental assumptions: - that people are able,
valuable, and responsible, and should be treated accordingly; - that education
should be a collaborative, cooperative activity, involving all
participants--teachers, students, and parents--in all decisions which affect
them; - that people possess untapped potential in all aspects of human endeavor;
and - that human potential can best be realized by places, policies, and
processes that are specifically designed to invite development, and by people
who are intentionally inviting with themselves and others, personally and
Inviting schools, then, are places where students feel welcome, appreciated,
and encouraged to realize their potential and to respect the unique worth of
themselves and others.
The invitational approach to
education derives from two theoretical perspectives: perceptual psychology and
self-concept theory. The perceptual tradition sees behavior as a function of the
individual's perceived world. Individuals are viewed as conscious agents who
perceive, consider, interpret, and then act on the basis of their own
experience, and who are ultimately responsible for their own actions.
Self-concept consists of each person's unique system of perceptions about the
self in relation to one's environment. A person seeks to maintain a consistent
self-concept by assimilating or rejecting perceptions that do or do not fit
preconceptions, but a person's self-concept can change and develop as a result
of inviting or encouraging acts.
If educators are to create inviting schools, they must identify those
elements in the school environment that will interact with students' perceptions
in ways that continually foster a healthy self-concept in students. Every part
of the environment, the program and policies, and the approach to instruction
must be designed to promote a sustaining belief in the value and unique
potential of each person.
THE INVITING SCHOOL
The physical environment of a school
can have a dramatic effect on the attitudes of counselors, teachers and students
toward education and toward each other. If windows are broken, paint is peeling,
hallways are littered, walls are covered with graffiti, classrooms dusty, and
restrooms smelly, students can hardly be blamed for concluding that no one cares
about them--and they will act accordingly. Conversely, if a school is tidy,
well-maintained, brightly lit, and freshly painted, and if grass is mowed,
bushes trimmed, flowers planted, and walkways clean, students are far more
likely to feel a sense of pride in their school and in themselves.
Other ways to make your school building more inviting include signs and
posters that welcome visitors and offer validating messages to students,
bulletin boards that advertise school activities and events, and display cases
that exhibit student accomplishments or artistic works.
INVITING SCHOOL POLICIES AND PROGRAMS
rules, codes, and procedures used to regulate ongoing functions such as
discipline, personnel selection, bus routes, attendance, and visitation
procedures--can send a powerful message to people in the school and the
community about whether or not people are seen as able, valuable, and
responsible. Often, policies that may seem sensible and efficient to those who
make them may be experienced as insensitive, degrading, or demoralizing by those
Policies should therefore be framed with an eye not only toward the smooth
and efficient functioning of the school, but also toward the convenience,
self-respect, and dignity of teachers, counselors and students.
The academic program can likewise convey strong messages about a school's
attitude toward students. Often, programs with good intentions are harmful to
individuals because they focus on narrow goals and neglect human needs. For
example, programs that group students according to ability may be highly
beneficial for students labeled as "gifted," but this same labeling process may
wreak long-term psychological damage on those who are stigmatized (and thus
perceive themselves) as "slow." The invitational model requires educators to
assess the effects of programmatic decisions on the human needs and self-esteem
of everyone affected by those decisions.
INVITING BEHAVIOR IN THE CLASSROOM
As Purkey notes,
Invitational Learning is "as much an attitudinal disposition as a methodology." Teachers and counselors who accept the assumptions of the invitational model
conduct all of their teaching and counseling activities and their relationships
with the students on the basis of trust, respect, intentionality and optimism.
THE INVITING SCHOOL COUNSELOR
According to Purkey,
counselors can operate at four levels of inviting or disinviting:
- Intentionally disinviting--counselors who deliberately attempt to make
students feel incapable, worthless, and irresponsible.
- Unintentionally disinviting--counselors who "have their hearts in the right
place" but whose counseling methods contradict their good intentions by
inadvertent discouraging messages conveyed through labeling or stereotyping,
nonverbal signals, or other means.
- Unintentionally inviting--counselors who are "naturals," but who are
unaware of the nature and good effects of their behavior. Because they do not
see the sources of their successes and failures, such counselors are often
blocked from professional development, and they often lack the consistent
pattern of behavior middle school students need in order to formulate their own
- Intentionally inviting--counselors who explicitly invite students,
teachers, administrators, and parents and are able to adjust and evaluate their
invitations as necessary. The goal of most counselors, of course, is to be
intentionally inviting as much as possible. The intentionally inviting counselor
makes a determined effort to make the school an inviting place that stresses the
importance and uniqueness of students, encourages parental involvement in the
school, and nurtures the creativity of teachers. The intentionally inviting
counselor: listens with care, acts "real" with students, possesses
self-understanding and self-acceptance, handles rejection well, and effectively
The inviting school counselor also offers concrete humanistic behaviors to
assist students to feel adequate as learners by nurturing the following skills
in students: relating (with school, teachers, classmates, and the opposite sex),
asserting (developing a sense of control over what happens in the classroom),
investing (willingness to try new things, to explore new possibilities, and to
make mistakes), and coping (meeting school expectations).
The counselor's role in the school can be viewed as the delivery of direct
invitational services to students and staff and the humanizing of the school
atmosphere. The counselor proceeds in such a manner that students, staff, and
the counselor feel worthwhile, capable, and responsible.
WHERE DO WE START?
It is not always easy to transform a
school into an inviting place that respects individuality, that nurtures
curiosity and enthusiasm for learning, and that fosters dignity and
responsibility. Institutional bad habits can be as difficult to break as
personal bad habits. But the process begins with individuals--with principals,
teachers and counselors.
Principals can initiate the process of change by establishing a clear set of
goals based on the invitational model. Next, a three-to-five year plan can be
instituted to achieve these goals. Renovation of the physical plan should come
first, since this establishes an appropriate setting for the transformations
that follow--in policies, programs, and practices. Principals should also model
the behavior they expect of teachers and counselors in their own interactions
with staff and students.
The ultimate responsibility for the success of an invitational model,
however, lies with teachers and counselors themselves. Purkey has developed a
systematic plan he calls the "Four Corner Press" through which teachers and
counselors can develop an inviting attitude that pervades everything they do.
The four "corners" are as follows: - being personally inviting with one's self -
being personally inviting with others - being professionally inviting with one's
self - being professionally inviting with others
The underlying notion behind this approach is that to be successful, teachers
and counselors must develop an authentically inviting attitude, toward
themselves and others, both inside and outside of school. They should lead
lively and interesting lives, be fully engaged both personally and
professionally in their job, and support and encourage both students and
colleagues in everything they do.
Purkey, W. W., & Novak, J. M. (1984).
Inviting school success: A self-concept approach to teaching and learning (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.
Purkey, W. W., & Schmidt, J. J. (1987). The inviting relationship: An expanded perspective for professional counseling. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Purkey, W. W., & Schmidt, J. J. (1990). Invitational learning for counseling and development. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, The University of Michigan.
Purkey, W. W., & Stanley, H. (1989). Connecting with the disconnected student: An invitational approach. Greensboro, NC: Smith Reynold's Foundation Research Demonstration Project, University of North Carolina.
Wilson, J. (1986). The invitational elementary classroom. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publishers.