Innovative Power of Asking, “What if? Why not? & So What?”

Brian Durst has been gathering wisdom from colleagues and creating memories with students for two decades in the classroom–a learner-centered, educational clubhouse. Brian seeks opportunities to network with other educators, share experiences, and advocate for students. He is a proud father of two, husband, varsity baseball coach, and English department chair at Grafton High School.

Read more from Brian at his website.


Am I doing this right?
Is this what you’re looking for?
What do you think about this?

There is excessive self-doubt, inadequacy, and hesitation in our school culture. How can students be expected to take risks and produce original thinking if their only concern is a teacher’s judgment of their work?

Learning with a Purpose

As I personalize the learning process in my high school communication arts literature and composition courses, I hear students asking questions about how they can show evidence of their learning. They check in for approval even though we have created an environment of trust, innovation, and risk-taking. I want what we all seek: students creating new outcomes with learning; content they are intrigued by and learning they are invested in; engagement with and exploration of course material; and evidence of innovation.

Essential Questions

In response to student uncertainty, I hear myself routinely asking, “What if? Why not? and So what?” The impact of those three simple questions has completely altered student performance and depth of learning (from freshmen to seniors). The successful results of this model are worth sharing. The purpose of this post is to organize a session proposal for the 2015 CESA1 Personalized Annual Convening.

This year’s theme — Innovation, Iteration, Implementation — reinforces and focuses on the innovation cycle introduced six years ago and the premise of the action network approach — multiple sites trying different approaches to implement the Institute’s Personalized Learning Model, sharing that learning, making adjustments and trying new things, and feeding that back into practice.

With the Institute’s conference theme in mind, I propose the following session. I invite any comments and welcome feedback.

The Innovative Power of Asking, “What if? Why not? and So What?”

What if?

  • A teacher’s primary responsibility is to facilitate learning by supporting innovation, provide immediate feedback to student performance, ask open-ended questions, and listen as students talk themselves through creative insecurity.
  • Students delve deeply into concepts beyond comprehension of course content by asking, “What if? Why not? So what?”
  • Learners understand how to assess their performance against course standards, recognize opportunities for growth, determine reasonable timelines for completion and sharing artifacts they create, and craft authentic outcomes as evidence of their learning.

Why not?

  • Participate in a workshop session personalized to meet the professional development needs (and Educator Effectiveness
  • Performance Standards) of educators interested in personalizing the learning process for their students.
    Engage in conversation, share experiences, and plan strategies with educators interested in implementing a personalized learning model.

So what?

  • So, students and teachers have the autonomy, space, and time to produce enduring learning experiences.
  • So, let’s create immediate, actionable plans to make learning personal. For educators. For students.

Would you attend this workshop?

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