A number of scholars and researchers have worked together over several decades to develop an understanding of certain abstract principles and everyday facts that appear to relate to one another and which seem to influence human success or failure. This understanding has evolved into a model of practice called Invitational Theory.
The term "invitational" was chosen for its special meaning. The English invite is probably a derivative of the Latin word invitare, which means to offer something beneficial for consideration. Translated literally, invitare means to summon cordially, not to shun. Implicit in this definition is that inviting is an ethical process involving continuous interactions among and between human beings.
Invitational Theory (Purkey, 1978; Purkey & Novak, 1984, 1988, 1996; Purkey & Schmidt, 1987, 1990; Purkey & Siegel, 2013; Novak, Armstrong, & Browne, 2014) seeks to explain phenomena and provide a means of intentionally summoning people to realize their relatively boundless potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor. Its purpose is to address the entire global nature of human existence and opportunity and to make life a more exciting, satisfying and enriching experience.
Five Basic Assumptions
(Essential to Understand Invitational Theory)
Process & Product
An Overview of Invitational Theory
Three Foundations of Invitational Theory
The Democratic Ethos
It respects people's ability to articulate concerns, act responsibly and exerts that people who are affected by decisions should have a say in making them.
The Perceptual Tradition
Human behavior is the product of the unique ways individuals perceive the world.
To better understand why people do the things they do it is necessary to explore perceptions within and among individuals.
The theory maintains that behavior is mediated by the ways an individual views oneself and that these views serve as both antecedent and consequence of human activity.
Invitational Theory offers a logical extension to the democratic ethos, perceptual tradition, and self-concept theory and builds on these three interlocking foundations.
These foundations provide a structure for the Five Elements of Invitational Theory.
Five Elements of Invitational Theory
The five essential elements of Invitational Theory offer a consistent "stance" through which human beings can create and maintain an optimally inviting environment. While there are other factors that contribute to Invitational Theory, these propositions are key ingredients in moving from theory to practice:
CareCare is at the core of the inviting stance. Of all the elements of invitational theory, none is more important that a person’s genuine ability and desire to care about others and oneself.
Caring, with its own ingredients, such as warmth, empathy, and positive regard provides a person with the means to be a beneficial presence in one’s own life and the lives of others.
TrustInvitational Theory requires recognition of the interdependence of human beings. To develop and sustain inviting relationships requires time, effort, and establishing trustworthy patterns of interaction. Trust is based on the memory of invitations sent, received, and acted upon successfully. Given an inviting environment, each person will pursue his or her own best ways of being and becoming.
RespectAn indispensable element in any human encounter is shared responsibility based on mutual respect.
This respect is manifested in the caring and appropriate behaviors exhibited by people as well as the places, policies, programs, and processes they create and maintain.
It is also manifested by establishing positions of equality and shared power.
OptimismPeople possess untapped potential in all areas of human endeavor. No clear limits to human potential have been discovered. Invitational Theory requires optimism regarding human potential.
It is not enough to be inviting; it is critical to be optimistic about the process. No one can choose a beneficial direction in life without hope that change for the better is possible.
IntentionalityHuman potential can best be realized by places, policies, processes, and programs designed to invite development and by people who are personally and professionally inviting. An invitation is an intentional act designed to offer something beneficial for consideration. Intentionality enables people to create, maintain, and enhance environments that consistently, dependably invite the realization of human potential.
Domains (The Five Ps)
These five "Ps" make up the ecosystem in which individuals continuously interact. A starfish analogy is used to illustrate how the five powerful “P’s”, applied with steady and persistent pressure, will overcome the biggest challenges in an organization. Just as the starfish gently and continuously uses each of its arms in turn, to keep steady pressure on the one oyster muscle until it eventually opens, so will organizations meet their challenges successfully by paying close attention to the five powerful “Ps.”
Levels of Functioning in Invitational Theory
Being human and less than perfect, everyone functions at each level from time to time, but it is the level at which people typically function that determines their approach to life and their ultimate success, personally and professionally. Many people believe they understand the concept of "inviting" and see it as simply doing nice things: sharing a smile, giving a hug, saying something nice, or buying a gift.
While these may be worthwhile activities (when used caringly and appropriately) they are only surface manifestations of the invitational assumptions an individual makes and the inviting environments they create. These assumptions determine the level of personal and professional functioning. The following levels provide a way to monitor each of the Five Ps (places, policies, programs, processes, and people) related to any human endeavor that reflect Invitational Theory in action.
Intentionally disinviting functioning might involve a person who is purposely insulting, a policy that is intentionally discriminatory, a program that purposely reduces people to functionaries, or an environment intentionally left unpleasant, unattractive, and unhealthy.
People, places, policies, programs and processes that are intentionally disinviting are few when compared to those that are unintentionally disinviting.
Individuals who function at the unintentionally disinviting level are often viewed as uncaring, chauvinistic, condescending, patronizing, sexist, racist, dictatorial, or just plain thoughtless. They do not intend to be hurtful or harmful, but because they lack consistency in direction and purpose, they act in disinviting ways.
People who function at the unintentionally disinviting level may not intend to be disinviting, but the damage is done. Like being run over by a truck: intended or not, the victim is still dead.
An example of this is the "natural born" teacher. Such people may be successful in teaching because they exhibit many of the caring, trusting, respecting, and optimistic qualities associated with Invitational Theory.
However, because they lack the fourth critical element, intentionality, they lack consistency and dependability in the actions they exhibit, the policies and programs they establish, and the places and processes they create and maintain. People who are unintentionally inviting are akin to early barn-storming airplane pilots. These pioneer pilots did not understand why their planes flew, or what caused weather patterns, or much about navigational systems, but as long as they stayed close to the ground, followed a railway track and the weather was clear they were able to function. But, when the weather turned bad or night fell, they became disoriented and lost.
In difficult situations, people who function at the unintentionally inviting level lack dependability in behavior and consistency in direction. The basic weakness in functioning at the unintentionally inviting level is the inability to identify the reasons for success or failure.
Most people know whether something is working or not, but when it stops working, they are puzzled about how to start it up again. Unfortunately, when things stop working, people will often digress to lower levels of functioning. Those who function at the unintentionally inviting level lack a consistent stance--a dependable theory of practice from which to operate.
I look up and down the rows carefully each September at the unfamiliar faces. I look for veiled eyes or bodies scrounged into an alien world. "Look, Kids," I say silently, "I may not do anything else for you this year, but not one of you is going to come out of here a nobody. I'll work or fight to the bitter end doing battle with society and the school board, but I won't have one of you coming out of here thinking of himself [sic] as a zero. (Mizer, 1964, p. 10). Intentionality can be a tremendous asset for educators and others in the helping professions, for it is a constant reminder of what is truly important in human service.
In Invitational Theory, everybody and everything adds to or subtracts from human existence. Ideally, the factors of people, places, policies, programs, and processes should be so intentionally inviting as to create a world where each individual is cordially summoned to develop physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
Those who accept the assumptions of Invitational Theory not only strive to be intentionally inviting but once there, continue to grow and develop to achieve the “Plus Factor.”
The Plus Factor!
When people watch the accomplished musician, the headline comedian, the world-class athlete, the master teacher, what he or she does seems simple. It is only when people try to do it themselves that they realize that true art requires painstaking care, discipline, and deliberate planning over extended periods of time.
- Football teams call it "momentum"
- Comedians call it "feeling the center"
- World-class athletes call it "finding the zone"
- Fighter pilots call it "rhythm"
In Invitational Theory it is called the Plus Factor. Invitational Theory becomes "invisible" because it becomes a means of addressing humanity. At its best, Invitational Theory requires implicit, rather than explicit, expression. When the educator reaches this special plateau, what they do appears effortless.
The "Magic" of the Plus FactorA good example of this factor in action was provided by Ginger Rogers, the famous actress and dancer. When describing dancing with Fred Astaire, she said, "It's a lot of hard work, that I do know." Someone responded: "But it doesn't look it, Ginger." Ginger replied, "That's why it's magic."
Invitational Theory, at its best, works like magic. Those who function at the highest levels of inviting become so fluent over time that the carefully honed skills and techniques they employ are invisible to the untrained eye.
They function with such talented assurance that the tremendous effort involved does not call attention to itself.
"It flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo."
Dimensions in Invitational Theory
The goal of Invitational Theory is to encourage individuals to enrich their lives in each of four basic dimensions: (1) being personally inviting with oneself; (2) being personally inviting with others; (3) being professionally inviting with oneself; and (4) being professionally inviting with others.
Like pistons in a finely tuned machine or sections of musicians in a concert orchestra, the four dimensions work together to give power to the whole movement. While there are times when one of the four dimensions may demand special attention, the overall goal is to seek balance and harmony between personal and professional functioning.
- Personally Inviting / Oneself
- Personally Inviting / Others
- Professionally Inviting / Oneself
- Professionally Inviting / Others
Being personally inviting with oneself takes an endless variety of forms. It means caring for one's mental health and making appropriate choices in life. By taking up a new hobby, relaxing with a good book, exercising regularly, learning to laugh more, visiting friends, getting sufficient sleep, growing a garden, or managing time wisely, people can rejuvenate their own well-being.
Specific ways to be personally inviting with others are simple but often overlooked. Getting to know colleagues on a social basis, sending friendly notes, forming a car-pool, remembering birthdays, enjoying a faculty party, practicing politeness, celebrating successes, and respecting differences are all examples of Invitational Theory in action.
In practical terms, being professionally inviting with oneself means trying a new method, seeking certification, learning new skills, returning to graduate school, enrolling in a workshop, attending conferences, reading journals, writing for publication, and making presentations at conferences.
Keeping alive professionally is particularly important because of the rapidly expanding knowledge base. Never before have knowledge, techniques, and methods been so bountiful. Your professional canoe must be paddled harder than ever -- just to keep up with the knowledge explosion!
In everyday practice, being professionally inviting with others requires careful attention to the policies that are introduced, the programs established, the places created, the processes manifested, and the behaviors exhibited.
How can you be professionally inviting with others? Have high aspirations, fight sexism and racism in any form, work cooperatively, behave ethically, provide professional feedback, and maintain an optimistic stance.
Professionals who combine the four dimensions of Invitational Theory into a seamless whole are well on their way to putting the theory into practice. The successful individual is one who balances the four dimensions to sustain energy and enthusiasm for teaching, learning, leading, and living.
A Few Words From The Founders
We have now introduced Invitational Theory and presented it as a guiding model for inviting success in one's personal and professional life. It described its foundations of democratic ethos, the perceptual tradition, and self-concept theory. It explained how the elements, domains, levels, and dimensions of functioning work together to encourage human potential.
Increasingly, Invitational Theory is finding its way into healthcare facilities, educational institutions, management workplaces
and in the parenting arena. Wherever it goes, Invitational Theory carries the basic message that human potential, while not always evident, is always there, waiting to be discovered and invited forth.
References Jourard, S. M. (1974) The undisclosed self. New York. Mentor Books Mizer, J. E(1964). Cipher in the snow. NEA Journal, pp 8-10. Novak, J. J, Armstrong, D. E. and Browne, B (2014) Leading for Educational lives: Inviting and sustaining imaginative acts of hope in a connected world. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam/Boston. Purkey, W. W. Self concept and academic achievement. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey Purkey W. W. (1978) Inviting school Success: A self-concept approach to teaching and learning. Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, California Purkey, W. W. and Novak, J. M. (1996) Inviting school success: A self-concept approach to teaching, learning, and democratic practice, Third Edition. Wadsworth Publishing. Belmont, California Purkey, W. W. and Schmidt, J. J. (1987). The Inviting relationship: An expanded perspective for professional counseling. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey Purkey, W. W. and Siegel, B. L. (2013) Becoming an invitational leader: A new approach to professional and personal success. Humanix Press, West Palm Beach, Florida Rogers, C. R. (1969) Freedom to learn. Columbus, Ohio. Charles Merrill