Home » Distance Library Instruction Virtual Poster Session (Spring 2019) » Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don’t Settle: Applying the Appreciative Advising Framework to Online Interactions between Students and Librarians


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Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don’t Settle: Applying the Appreciative Advising Framework to Online Interactions between Students and Librarians

This poster is part of the Distance Library Instruction Virtual Poster Session hosted by the ACRL DLS Instruction Committee. We encourage you to ask questions and engage in discussion on this poster! Authors will respond to comments between April 1-5.


Elizabeth St. Clair, City University of Seattle and Jennifer Bodley, City University of Seattle

Poster Description:

This poster will overview the Appreciative Advising (AA) framework and describe its application to online information literacy (IL) instruction and a critically reflective practice. The framework has six phases: Disarm, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Don’t Settle.




About the Presenters

Elizabeth St. Clair is an instruction and reference librarian at City University of Seattle. Her embedded instruction practice focuses primarily on meeting students at their point of need in their online classrooms. Elizabeth received her MLIS from The University of Alabama and has experience in both corporate and academic libraries.

Jennifer Bodley is an instruction and reference librarian at City University of Seattle. Building critical thinkers through active learning is her instructional goal. Jennifer’s experience includes providing business, legal, biological, and medical research in business and academic environments. Jennifer has a BA in Biology and in Psychology and an MLIS.


  1. Very good! I often wonder how to get students to take time from their classes, assignments. labs, jobs and other work loads to seek resources, Librarians and help before the crunch of finals is upon them. Our Search Bar is dong a job beyond and above the call of duty. Students like working with other students. Most Librarians leave at 5 pm weekdays.
    Student beginn assignments, research and other studies between 6 pm and 8 AM daily.

    Availability and attentiveness is the key here for the desired outcome

    • Thank you for your comment. Balancing availability and support while also preserving ourselves is a tough balance.

      This is why I really like a positive, appreciative approach that helps students build on skills they already have and tie their work to their passions/goals/career prospects/etc. (discover/dream) while giving them the tools necessary to move forward (design/deliver). So often I come across students who have no investment in what they are doing or the work they are producing (most often at the undergraduate level) and think the librarians are available to do their work for them, which we know is not the case. The more invested they are in their own scholarship, the more likely they’ll take the time for their classes. Our support (and through co-creation) helps make that process more apparent and easier to manage—both for the students AND the librarians who, unfortunately, cannot be available 24×7.

    • HI Barbara-
      Thanks for your comment.
      I understand that you see students not using the library or librarians because of their busy schedules. We experience the same thing.
      When we do get the chance to work with students, I feel like the AA approach helps us build relationships with them. We can give them a safe learning environment, where we aren’t judging them, and they can feel like they are getting help, but also feel like they are empowered by delivering on the plan they they co-created with us. I hope this helps them come back to us in the future.
      Do you feel like there would be a space in your practice to implement some of the concepts of AA either on the reference desk or in your instruction? How do you think your co-librarians (if you have them) would feel about this approach?
      Best, Jenni

  2. I love this framework, which I hadn’t heard of before. I can see how this is easily done if you have a longer, one-on-one time with a student. How does this framework inform your shorter interactions with students, or your answers to email reference questions? If you have only a couple of minutes, you can’t go through the entire framework. Thanks!

    • This is a great question, Jennifer. I’ve actually found this framework to work really well in short reference interactions. For example, in a reference chat, I may first welcome the student (Disarm) and use a couple of open-ended questions to get at the core of what they are doing/what they need, as well as help them narrow or broaden their focus. In chat, I often combine the “Discover” phase and the “Dream” phase. So, examples of the questions I might then ask the student are:

      Can you tell me a little bit more about your assignment and why you chose this topic?
      This topic sounds really cool—what interests you about X, Y, Z..?
      Where have you searched so far? or What search engines or databases have you used?
      What have you found that has worked for you?

      These, of course, may be more specific based on their topic/subject/area of focus.

      After getting at the core of what they are looking for and what motivates their work, then I will build off of that and suggest some places/databases to search, as well as some keywords they might possibly use (this is also the step where I’ll show them how they’ve already provided useful keywords in their initial inquiry). I’ll then generally give them an example search and ask if they can recreate it or I’ll ask them to think of some additional keywords. This encompasses the “Design” step, where co-creation is important, and the “Deliver” phase, where you put the responsibility back on to the student.

      After this, I’ll generally personalize some canned messaging to encourage them to use the strategies we’ve designed together and continue to search on their own. I also remind them that should they get lost or struggle to find relevant information to not hesitate to return to us for additional help.

      I think it is important to remember that each frame may not work for every interaction. I personally think—especially in short interactions—that certain frames can be grouped together (this is noted in the advising literature, as well). Disarm-Discover-Dream group together well, as do Design-Deliver-Don’t Settle.

      Let me know if you have any questions!

    • HI Jennifer-
      Thanks for your comment. I’ll chime in on this post too!
      Like Elizabeth, I feel like the AA approach helps tremendously in shorter reference interactions.
      For example, in chat on the reference desk, students give abbreviated phrases that might represent larger questions, and not include any context. Before implementing the AA approach, I used to have a really negative reaction to working on chat because of the seemingly little engagement I was getting from the student.
      The AA approach has helped me turn around my view of the reference interaction by seeing it as a positive, student-centered teaching moment. It was very liberating for me, because as I now reflect on my student interactions, I know that I’m providing a quality, positive learning environment for the student.
      Are most of your interactions with students quite brief? Do you feel as if asking some of these types of questions to students is doable? Or do you feel students wouldn’t be receptive and/or that you need to jump too quickly to an “answer”?
      Best, Jenni

      • Thanks to both of you for the responses! I like the way you think of chat reference.

        I was actually thinking of email reference, which I find the hardest. Students generally don’t want a lot of back and forth in email reference, because it takes so long between responses, so we really prioritize “one touch” responses. So I find I leave off “Discover” and “Dream” often in email reference, or if I include it, I jump straight to “Deliver” afterwards in the same email without waiting for a response. In other words, I might encourage them to respond with more information, but even if they never respond, I hope to provide enough information in my initial email to get them started.

        • I totally know what you mean. Email reference is tough—as you never know what you’re going to get back! I agree with you about student resistance to back and forth. Like you, I often find that I have to cover many bases in one response when it working in email.

          This is where I’ve really come to appreciate the “Don’t Settle” aspect of this entire framework. In the Appreciative Advising Revolution, they talk a lot about striking a balance between support and challenge “such that students progress and grow” (p. 97). This can be a hard balance to strike for librarians who—at least if you’re like me—tend to have the impulse to give give give give give.

          In email, I always start out with asking open-ended questions (Discover/Dream) and then move on to giving them some example searches (maybe an article, if applicable) but I try not to go too in-depth before encouraging them to try the strategies on their own (Deliver). That way, if they do respond, we have something to build on (Design) and, if they don’t return, I at least know I helped them find their footing and, hopefully, didn’t turn them off of the library services entirely. Finding the balance of giving too much vs. too little isn’t easy, and it definitely adapts based on the mode of delivery, the kinds of questions being asked, and the personality of student.

  3. I think many of us practice at least some of these steps but I way the way the steps are lined out in the poster. Proof reading note, under “Deliver” should it not be reins?

    • Haha. You’re absolutely correct! The typo has been amended. 🙂

      You touch on one of the things I really like about this framework, which is that it embodies a lot of what I was already doing while also providing a structure that I can apply systematically across many aspects of my work. Keeping these steps in mind helps me to step back and regularly reflect on the interactions I have with students—improving my practice along the way.

      It also helps me to keep my inner cynic in check.

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