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  1. Help us gain insights into techniques, methods or processes that have proven themselves over time

  2. Support institutional efforts to maintain quality through “benchmarking”

  3. Promote learning The problem is that while Best Practices are necessary – they are not sufficient!  Best Practices do not always help us recognise that it is questions that drive the thinking and learning process…and, that this learning is the thing that can lead us to consider different ways of “doing business” or “Next Practice”. Sadly, in many organisations and institutions we are taught not to open Pandora’s Box and to avoid challenging conversations or experiences. Some commentators believe this strongly, for example, Boshyk suggests that it is often the case that people are “paid not to ask questions”.

  1. How do I do this? When we ask how to do something, suggests Block, the very question expresses our bias for what is practical, concrete, and immediately useful, often at the expense of “what matters”. The very question itself becomes a defence against action. Furthermore, the question is also frequently used as a “tool” by those who want to “keep their heads down and stick to the rules” – rather than “acting on what matters”. The question, maintains Block, is further reinforced by the family of other “how-questions” that inevitably follow in its wake:

  1. How are other people doing it successfully?

  2. How much does this cost?

  3. How long will it take?

  4. How do you get those people to change?8 Block’s ideas are extremely attractive at a common sense level but they raise the question of “what are the right questions”?

  1. Whom are we here to serve?

  2. What do we want to create together?

  3. How will the world be different tomorrow as a result of what we do today? As alternatives to the family of other “how-questions”, he suggests:

  1. What refusal have we been postponing?

  2. What is the price we are willing to pay?

  3. What commitment are we willing to make?

  4. What is our contribution to the problem we are concerned with? So, how could we draw on his insights to look deeper at the challenges we face in education? Educators (and politicians more so in recent years) have been asking questions about our schools and universities for years. Questions like;

  1. What “works” in other educational systems?

  2. How do we motivate and get students to learn better?

  3. How do we improve student performance levels?8 These questions have led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of pages of recommendations, policy initiatives and project briefs – as well as a very healthy increase in the number of “educational tourists” flying to Finland, Singapore and now (thanks to PISA) to Shanghai!

  1. What are we here to do for our learners?

  2. What really “matters” in an education system?

  3. What stops students from learning in our schools and education system?

  4. What is wrong with the way we are currently “doing business” in education?