Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why? Why? Why? - A popular education reflection tool

I was recently asked by the Climate Crisis Coalition about an exercise i've been using for many years to do critical reflection. It's an old favourite of mine and its simplicity belies the profound effects it can have on people. I call it Why? Why? Why? and it consists of simply posing a simple question and pounding it with a series of "Why's". You can download an activity description here:
And there's a sample form here: Why? Why? Why? Sample Form (Word-22K)

I like to call this exercise "popular education for our inner two-year-old" - something all parents will understand. I like to use this exercise to start an event as it gives people the chance to consider why they are involved in the work they do and, presumably, why they are participating in the event they are a part of.

If you use it please let me know how it goes and i'm happy to share more tips about how to use it.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Chris, for sharing this exercise. I got interested in how it works and I tried to apply it to my own simple question. It works really well. It is an excellent reflection tool.
The only challenge I faced was related to translation. There are two ways to translate the word "why" into Russian. One variant means "for what reason?" and leads you into reflection about the roots, history, and philosophy of things. The other variant means "for what purpose?" and leads into thinking about practical application, possible results and consequences. When I tried to apply this tool, I felt uncertainty at some stages because of the double-nature of the word.

Chris cavanagh said...

Wow, that's a fascinating difference of "why's". How interesting that English only has one word while Russian has two. At times, in English, "reason" and "purpose" can be synonyms. But they are subtly different. And the "Why? Why?" Why?" exercise allows for participants to choose how they wish to interpret what the "Why?" is aimed at - whether a material-behavioural-pragmatic sense or a more philosophical (even metaphysical) sense. While one obvious solution is to ask people to do the exercise twice - once each for the different Russian words for "why" this would often not be very practical in workshop settings. One possibility would be to give half the participants one form with "for what purpose" and the other half "for what reason". It could be very interesting to compare the different types of responses. I'll keep thinking on this. And i wonder, as well, what other languages might introduce such nuances to this exercise.

If anyone reading this has other thoughts about this exercise or experiences with applying it, please feel free to share.