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The What, How and Why of it all

We are hypocrites, most of us. We don't mean to be, but we are.

Bold words, I know, but I am not attacking us with venom or unreal expectations.

This line of thought started when I went on a child protection course as part of my new role I am SDP (senior designated person) for safeguarding. It's not a role I relish, but it is vital. I realised over the day that there is an awful lot of that I am ignorant of. That got me thinking of conversations I've had with people about pedagogical practice. I've said things like, "How did you hear about the child-led learning? Was it based on anyone's work?" To which the response it, in an often patronising tone. 
"You know a lot about things, don't you?"

No, I really, really don't. 

The worry for me is we, as teachers, follow government guidelines because we have to. We teach because we want to. We don't always learn why we do things because we haven't got time to.

I recently watched a video about leadership, through iTunesU. It talked about the three zones of marketing and how the conception was backwards. People were looking at things the wrong way round. This was called, The what, how & why. This model can be applied to us as teachers and educators.

The most common zone is 'What'. 

It's the first zone most people focus on. What are we doing today? What is our learning objective? What is 3 x 5? Etc. what is a safe zone to sit in, because when people ask you about 'what', you are able to give an answer. 

The next is 'How'. 
How comes next because it's the process of delivery for the 'What' section. How do I translate my paper plans into practice? How did you know 3 x 5 was 15? The 'How' part is our stock in trade, the bit we do, for the most part, pretty well.

The least investigated, is the 'Why'. 
Bizarrely, this is the area we are most interested in the children using. Why did you think you did well? Can you explain why 3 x 5 was 15? Why did you hit him with your shoe? All these questions can, and probably mostly, have the answer of "I don't know". 

In terms of pedagogy, I don't know enough to spout whether this has been said before. Like the title suggests, I'm a hypocrite. I think it's better to know what you are and want to change than to not know what you do and seek to preach.

In terms of change, What am I asking for? Do I want to know the theoretical underpinnings of each individual style of teaching, perhaps for the teachers to include reference to which practitioner has influenced the plenary for Tuesday's lesson on word problems? No, I don't. I want them to hone their craft by having access to people who have had great ideas. People who, when we describe what they do, we get giddy and want to try it ourselves.

I want them to focus more on 'Why' they are doing something and less on the mechanics of what and how. I want them to feel free enough, trusted enough and confident enough to take a tangent and understand the potential for learning is everywhere. 

I will be using this model for appraisals, lesson observations and general discussions, starting, always, with a 'Why'.

How about, "That was a great lesson. Why did you choose that particular approach? How can you adapt it next time to better suit the needs of your boys? What do you feel went well?


  1. interesting thoughts - classroom teachers rarely get time to evaluate why they do things but in my role it is something I have to do often - plus then explain to others why I have chosen this approach. It does eventually change the way you teach but I think leadership from the top can speed that up. I taught in USA many years ago and in my school "why" was asked all the time and it really did change my teaching philospohy

  2. What an honest reflection on your teaching. I am an early years practitioner and love that all my planning starts with the children, in fact with each individual child. Their interest and engagement inspires me to offer experiences which extend their learning. Less fortunate that the pay and conditions in early years are appalling but you can't have everything...


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