I read this article from ASCD titled “Transforming Schools Starts with Asking Why?” That’s my favorite question, why! But over the years I have been amazed at how often I had to explain this to people. Too many times people thought I was challenging them personally and wanted them to defend themselves. But that’s just not the case.
Instead, I started explaining, that asking why was my favorite type of question and that I was not asking them to justify or defend. Rather I wanted to better understand their point of view. I then joke that, “I failed my mind reading class at school, so I need you to share your thinking.” that usually brings a smile.
A great technique is the 5 W’s. No not who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how. It’s why, why, why, why, and why. No really! When you ask someone to explain their thinking keep asking why. It usually takes five to really get to the root of the thinking. For example, if you ask…
Why #1: Why do you do it that way?
A: Because I’ve always done it that way.
Why #2: Why have you always done it that way?
A: Because that’s the way I was taught how to do it.
Why #3: Why was it taught to you that way?
A: Because that’s how the instructor did it.
Why #4: Why did the instructor do it that way?
A: I don’t know
Why #5: Then why do you still do it that way.
Always ask why and keep trying to get to the root of the thought process to keep improving schools and student learning!