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Thunks on the Business of Learning

Ian Gilbert was asked by a school to come up with Thunks to get staff thinking - here are 31 of them!

The great business guru Peter Drucker used to say that there were only two questions to ask a business:

What business are you in?

How’s business?

When it comes to schools, the business is learning, not teaching. It’s easy to see what’s been taught but much harder to uncover all that has been learned, especially when you consider that not all that has been learned has been taught and not all that all has been taught has been learned.

So, I was delighted to be asked by an international school principal to come up with some Thunks to help her explore the school’s definition of learning with her colleagues.

Feel free to use them with your own staff team — or with the children and young people themselves:

      1. Can you ever not learn?
      2. Can you learn without knowing you’ve learned?
      3. Can you make yourself not learn something?
      4. Do you train a dog, not teach it?
      5. Can you teach something accidentally?
      6. Is the quality of the teaching linked to the quality of the resources?
      7. Should the best students get the best teachers?
      8. Are the parents a better judge of the quality of a teacher than the students?
      9. If you forget it, did you learn it?
      10. Are learning and memory the same thing?
      11. Does a computer learn?
      12. If they’re not learning, are you teaching?
      13. If they forget it, did you teach it?
      14. Is the teacher responsible for the teaching and the students responsible for the learning?
      15. Is it up the students whether they learn anything in a lesson?
      16. Can you make someone learn something?
      17. Do we all learn the same things in a lesson?
      18. If you learn from YouTube, did you teach yourself?
      19. Should you not go to bad lessons when you could stay at home and watch good lectures on YouTube instead?
      20. Should you be made to go to bad lessons instead of learning from good videos?
      21. If I know the answer and you don’t, am I cleverer than you?
      22. Are adults not cleverer than children, just wiser?
      23. If fail all my exams did I learn nothing?
      24. If I fail all my exams did the teachers fail me?
      25. Am I cleverer when I have access to the internet?
      26. Do children use their memory less these days than 100 years ago?
      27. Is an expert clever?
      28. Is an intelligent person an intelligent person when they’re asleep?
      29. If I’m good at football but rubbish at maths, am I smart?
      30. Can anything be a school?
      31. If I move the buildings and contents over there, but keep all the people here, can we still say where the school is?

And finally, how about two non-Thunk but equally useful questions:

Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?

What are they learning while you’re teaching them?

What do you think...?

About the author

Ian Gilbert

Ian is an award-winning writer, editor, speaker, innovator and the founder of Independent Thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia and is privileged to have such a global view of education and education systems.

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