Stage 1: Adult Learning and Leadership

Try this: Ask Yourself Why

Write down 5 things you do every day.  Now for each one, ask yourself WHY?

  • Why do you write the objective on the board?
  • Why do you grade homework assignments out of 5 points?
  • Why do you meet with your leadership team every morning?

Ask yourself why not because these aren’t sound practices, but because by asking why you uncover the assumption that is driving your habit.


In fact if you aren’t getting to the real underlying assumptions, ask yourself why again.  There’s a great model for this called the 5-Why analysis which simply means you ask why X5 (it sounds a little bit like a curious three-year-old, but is highly effective).

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For example take your habit of grading homework out of 5 points.  When you ask yourself why the answer might be because that’s what my mentor teacher did or because it makes students take homework seriously.  That might lead you to ask yourself:

 Is there a way I could deal with homework that would be better for student learning?

Should I be grading homework at all or would it be more effective to give descriptive feedback instead of a score?

The point is: there’s a lot of things we do on autopilot so it’s important to pause and take a look at both what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  When we are aware of our habits and the assumptions that drive them, we can weed out the ideas and actions that don’t match with the goals we have for our practice and for our students.  

So today – ask yourself

3 thoughts on “Try this: Ask Yourself Why”

  1. This a very good suggestion for reflective practice. I like how it can tie in with aligning to your overall goals. It is important to see the whole picture, and not get caught up in the little details. We need to see why we are doing something to fully understand its impact on student learning, and if we see it does not have an impact on student learning, we can consider eliminating it from our teaching practices.

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