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Clean Questions and Deep Learning


“I love this exercise because it really stretches your brain and I love using my imagination because it’s my world. I want to do this again!” This is what one child wrote after experiencing the “5 senses” exercise, which uses clean questions to help people to learn about themselves and each other. Read on to learn more about our new primary school project…

Every now and then a brilliant opportunity just seems to fall in ourlaps. Whether it is luck or destiny or reward for perseverance we’re alwaysvery grateful.

A few months ago Caitlin received the following email:

I have just watched your TEDx YouTube clip and oh my! I feel exactly the way you described yourself when you approached David Grove - I want you to teach me EVERYTHING!!! We are playing with clean questions in school and are already finding such depth in children’s responses - and yet there is SO much more to learn about how to use them well…!

Caitlin went and met with the head of the primary school and the Senior Management Team and out of the blue we now have the most wonderful clean project. We’ve taughta group of 10 teachers the basics of Clean Language and Systemic Modelling and how they can be used to enhance teaching and learning. They’ve started to runsmall sessions with their pupils using our “5 Senses” exercise and a handful of clean questions.

Here are some of the pupil’s reflections:

I like to answer clean questions on something in my imagination because there is no right or wrong answer which I like because sometimes I got worried my answer will be wrong but with clean questions I don’t have to worry because I am thinking of the thing and only I know what the answer would be because if it isa bizarre answer only one person can answer it because it’s their world not the person asking the question’s world. And when it’s a smart answer it’s still the same because it’s still the person answering the question’s world. I love this exercise because it really stretches your brain and I love using my imagination because it’s my world. I want to do this again!

I feel that clean questions have really taught me a lot and guided me through my learning, the main reason being the fact that they are beyond the depth of us and our thinking makes me love them and really want to carry on using them… As soon as Mrs Maney said “See an elephant”, I could immediately hear the chirps of the exotic bird and the sound of the elephant’s trunk – a bit like a trumpet! I really love clean questions – some can be more challenging than others! Such as… “And … where is … ?” Or “And … and what kind of … ?” But I’m not saying thatI don’t like those ones, I just like them because they are challenging. The next step of my learning would be to go even deeper – if it is possible!

I found this an interesting experience because although what my partner said was funny and made me laugh, I really understood what she was saying; almost to the point I could hear her music. The question that most helped me was “And does …have a size or a shape?” I think this is because music doesn’t have a size or a shape but then my partner said it did and then I really began to see her music. Also they really helped me in many different ways. The clean questions helped me get unstuck. An example of this is when I couldn’t get what my partner was saying and I asked her a clean question and I understood. Overall, I got a lot out of this exercise and using clean questions, and I am getting better at using them. Next time I will fly through this.

These pilot interventions have been so successful that we’re collaborating to run a larger scale intervention and to teach the whole of Year 3 (children aged 7 & 8) to become Systemic Modellers both in this school and in another in a less affluent area and to track results over two years.

We’re getting research support from the school’s academic partners and looking forward to adding another project to the clean field.

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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