Root Cause Stories

During a recent school improvement training we asked, “Why is the wild owl population in India decreasing?”

After suspending disbelief that this question had anything to do with school improvement, the audience called out possibilities such as:

  • Pollution
  • Migration patterns
  • Loss of habitat

They seem plausible, but to pursue them would be folly as none of those would address the cause for the dwindling owl population.

Unfortunately too often school improvement teams, in their sense of urgency to “fix” the problem ,  forget to study the problem and possible solutions. They forget that they likely need more data to confirm or deny any of their hypotheses. Time consuming work for sure, but better than the alternative… working on solutions that will have little to no effect on the issue.

Victoria Burnhart in her article Multiple Measures indicates that Demographic and Achievement data are insufficient to identify root cause e.g. Number of owls this year compared to last year. Instead additional data is needed to understand the context of the problem.

So getting back to the original question, why is the owl population dwindling in India? It’s a bit of a shocker, but the answer is…. Harry Potter. Yep, apparently the book is so popular that owls are in great demand to give as gifts to young children. Click here for the full story.


Pat said…
You do such great work. I miss the interactions with you each month. Let's try to connect. The root cause discussion is so rich! Learning is multi-causal. Inspiration, motivation, and safety are important factors. Not only is physical safety important, but also, emotional safety. That transendes to staff, families, and ultimately children! So much to think about as we head to the work we do each day.
Thanks for keeping us all thinking about helping students to learn.
deburkins said…
What a great story and example! Here's another we found four our school improvement training (really short video clip - think about this question, then watch the two-minute "solution" discovered by the National Park Service). The question: "Why are the Jefferson Memorial walls crumbling and what should we do about it?" Here's the Juran Institute clip on youtube:
deburkins said…
Oops! That would be "for" our SI training, of course. Preview! Preview! :-)
Kelly Pauling said…

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your reading and commenting on the blog. You are greatly missed at monthly meetings too. We will have to look for other opportunities to connect.
Kelly Pauling said…
@Don love, love, love your suggestion. Definitely going to use that in the future. Perfect example of the 5 Why strategy.

Popular posts from this blog

Planning for Differentiation

Failure to Launch

Teacher Leadership: What do we Know?