A-306: Data Wise
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Why-Why-Why Protocol: Tips for TFs
Working within their school groups, students will complete the Why-Why-Why Protocol during
the final portion of class, from 6:10 to 7:00 PM. We anticipate that the entire protocol, including
set-up and debrief, will take 35-40 of the 50 minutes of team meeting time.
Official Protocol Instructions
See Data Wise, pages 102 (all) – 103 (top).
Chart paper (1 piece per team)
Markers (2-3 per team)
Post-its (optional—could also write directly on the chart paper)
Framing and Objective
Similar to the Affinity Protocol, Why-Why-Why is a tool for speculating about root causes. In
this case, instead of using it to speculate about root causes for the learner-centered problem (as
they did with the Affinity Protocol last time), students are going to use Why-Why-Why to
speculate about root causes for a problem of practice that they tentatively identified in the
classrooms they observed last week.
As they think about moving from a problem of practice to an instructional action plan, it is useful
to speculate on reasons why they saw the instruction that they did. In other words, if they can
hypothesize explanations for the instructional issues they observed, teams will be better
positioned to consider how to help teachers improve their practice.
1) Group selects one problem of practice it wants to focus on in this protocol. (Note: They may
have observed several problems or they may not be ready to settle on a final problem, and that is
okay. Tell them just to choose one problem that emerged from their observations.)
2) They write the problem at the top of their chart paper. Underneath, they write ―Why?‖ and
draw arrows to a number of possible explanations they generate. For each explanation, they
keep asking ―why,‖ and charting possible reasons underlying that explanation. For each initial
explanation, they may have to ask ―why‖ several times before they identify core issues the
school can work to address.
3) Groups share their work with the facilitator (if he/she wasn’t involved throughout) and the
facilitator works with them to debrief the protocol.
Example of a Why-Why-Why Inquiry
―POP: Teachers of low-level algebra I classes move too slowly through the curriculum to
adequately challenge most students.‖
Why? ―Teachers do not want some students to be lost.‖ Why? ―Because they think it is
easier to have everyone on the same page literally and figuratively. Why ―Because they do
not know how to differentiate instruction.‖ Why ―Because they think differentiation requires
too much work and out-of-class time.‖ Why ―Because they do not know how to monitor
individual students’ progress within the classroom and adjust instruction rapidly to meet
And so forth . . . . They can go through this process with each initial explanation they offer.