About Invitational Education

What is Invitational Education? 

Invitational Education is the process by which people are cordially summoned
to realize their potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor.

A theory of practice is a way of thinking about that which is considered to be worth doing well.  Invitational Education is thus a general and focused framework for thinking and acting about what is believed to be worthwhile in schools.  More than forty years old and still evolving, Invitational Education points in a hopeful direction, offers an ethically principled approach to the educative process, encourages a common language of improvement, and provides systematic and practical ways to make schools “the most inviting places in town.”

Invitational Education is a democratically oriented, perceptually anchored, self-concept approach to the educative process that centers on five basic assumptions:

  1. People are able, valuable, and responsible and should be treated accordingly.
  2. Educating should be a collaborative, cooperative activity.
  3. The process is the product in the making.
  4. People possess untapped potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor.
  5. This potential can best be realized by places, policies, programs, and processes specifically designed to invite development and by people who are intentionally inviting with themselves and others personally and professionally.

With these five assumptions as a theoretical focal point, the practice of Invitational Education is based on developing, transmitting, and evaluating caring, proactive and responsible messages.  Messages are the basic unit in Invitational Education.

Invitational Education provides educators with a systematic and sequential way of looking at messages.  From the moment we are born, every message we receive from the people we interact with, our experiences, and our environment is either a positive or a negative message about our ability, value, and responsibility.  These messages develop our self-concept – what we believe to be true about ourselves.  In turn, our self-concept influences our choices of behavior.  Inviting people recognize the power of their words and actions to influence someone’s self-concept and behavior.  Thus, they intentionally send messages that are respectful, trustworthy, optimistic, and caring.

The term Invitational Education was chosen because the two words have special meaning.  Our English word invite is probably a derivative of the Latin word invitare, which can mean “to offer something beneficial for consideration.”  Translated literally, invitare means “to summon cordially, not to shun.”  The word education comes from the Latin word educare, which means to “draw out” or “call forth” something potential or latent.  Literally, then, Invitational Education is the process by which people are cordially summoned to realize their potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor. Implied in Invitational Education is a commitment to respectful treatment and positive growth.

For more information about Invitational Education, use the quick links button to download two introductory articles.  An Introduction to Invitational Theory and Practice” provides a helpful overview of the foundations and elements of Invitational Theory and Practice.   Revisiting the Blue and Orange Metaphor introduces a color-coded way of thinking about Invitational Education and further insight into the influence of positive and negative messages.  Visit the IAIE Bookstore for many  insightful and practical resources about Invitational Education.