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I started reading a new book the other day, What Would Gandhi Do by Michael Kirby. In it he reflects on a range of modern issues, such as women’s rights and homosexuality, and returning to Gandhi, wonders how he might respond today.

Viewing a problem through someone else’s point of view is such a powerful exercise when working through a problem. For example, see Alexis Wiggins’ account of life as a student. New to coaching, she spent several days just observing life from a different perspective by sitting through class after class in order to develop a better understanding of where to start.

Seeing something from someone else’s point of view does not, however, always have to be in person. it can also be useful, as Kirby does, to wonder how someone else may approach a problem in order to start a different line of thinking and generate new ideas. Not only are we forced, in this situation, to consider someone else’s shoes, but also what it might be like to wear them.

Warren Berger touches on this strategy in his book A More Beautiful Question. During his discussion of question brainstorming, he describes how Andrew Rossi of marketing firm M Booth stokes creativity by thinking things through from an unusual perspective. Sometimes this includes wondering how a completely different company might respond, other times it might be a person. For example, how would IKEA solve the problem or what would Jay-Z do in this situation? The purpose of this provocation is to go beyond the usual possibilities and open the mind up to unusual combinations. This can be useful in breaking new ground.

Coming at this from another angle, Alan Thwaites approaches point of view and personality with the question, are you Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Brian Cox or Rupert Murdoch to your students? This question stemmed from the growing tendency of schools to ask such questions during job interviews to learn more about the applicant. In his post, he discusses what each would do in the position of curriculum coordinator. He then closes with the question as to who your students see you as?

Extending this focus on how someone else might respond, I often use my idea of various leaders and educators when stuck to wonder what they would approach the problem at hand. For example, when thinking about curriculum and assessment, I have caught myself wondering how Kath Murdoch might approach the problem, while stuck grappling with the ethics of being online I have wondered what Doug Belshaw would think. I also remember at the #GTASYD14 that the question often posed was, what would Sergey Brin do? I am not sure any of these people would actually think or act the way I imagine and to be honest, I will never really know, but this misses the point. The idea I have of them, built over time, merely acts as stimulus for working through challenges in my context.

What about you? What different questioning strategies do you use to think things through? Is there someone who you use as a guide when stuck on something? I would love to know.

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What Would You Do? – A Reflection on Questioning by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

9 thoughts on “What Would You Do? – A Reflection on Questioning

  1. I think it is important not to limit our “guides” only to the people we admire. People who achieve significant things, whether those things are something good or even if they were something evil, did so by using certain skills, thinking, determination, communication methods and so on. Some guides provide us with clues as to what to do and how to do it. Other guides show us what not to do and increase our awareness of what to avoid. Both are important. We need to learn the ‘right’ as well as the ‘wrong’, otherwise we might slide into repeating a ‘wrong’. Additionally, while no one in their right mind would liken Ghandi to Hitler for obvious reasons, these men did have one thing in common. Both had clearly articulated goals. No one was in doubt about either man’s objectives. While the goals of one were laudable and the other’s goals were the epitome of all that is evil, even so these men illustrate the importance of well communicated, unambiguous, persuasive goals. There are clear lessons to be learned from these two men on how to articulate our goals in a way that urges our students either to do what is best or that just compels them to do as they are told. Which method would result in the best learning experiences for the student? Which is more likely to engage both their mind and their heart? Which would result in the best long terms learning outcomes? Ghandi achieved his goals. While it seemed for a while that Adolf was achieving his goals, in the end things didn’t work out so well.

    • Thank you Alan for commenting. Really like your point and I guess that there can be something learned from everyone, whether we perceive them as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Not sure though that anyone would be getting up on a stage and presenting a lecture on ‘What would Hitler do?’ Should they? Mongals are another and the Vikings and and and. I guess the question is about what do successful people and groups do.


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