Be Curious (Ask Nonjudgmental Questions)

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WHAT  Be Curious
WHY      Being curious helps us gather data, push thinking, and guide leaders to do the heavy lifting toward        solving the problems or challenges they                     wrestle with.
HOW      Ask Nonjudgmental Questions


Prompts to get grounded and/or propel the conversation forward

  •       What’s clearer to you?

  •       If you did know, what would you say?


Prompts to specifically coach to equity

  •        How are you beginning with self to examine implicit and explicit biases?

  •       What does an equitable school look, feel, and sound like for students, staff and families?

  •       How are you creating a sense of belonging?

  •       What are you doing to create conditions for students, staff, and families to feel free to be authentic?

  •       What are you doing to inhibit the creation of conditions for students, staff, and families to feel free to be authentic?

  •       How have you recently noticed and/or acted upon opportunities to interrupt systemic racism?

  •       How are you actively creating equitable schools, organizations, and communities?

  •       What are the power dynamics?

  •       Who has a voice? Who doesn’t?

Prompts that seek specific, transactional information

  •       What have you already tried? (Imbue them with their own intelligence)

  •       How have you solved other similar problems? (Imbue them with their own intelligence)

  •       What’s at stake? (This helps them get to the heart of the matter)

  •       What is your job as you understand it?

  •       Do you know how to ask for what you need?

  •       Are you focusing on an outcome or an end in mind?

  •       Do you know what’s expected of you?

  •       How do you know you’re being effective?

  •       What are the consequences of this decision or action?

  •       Does your staff know the Why?

  •       Do your students understand the Why?

  •       Is it urgent?

  •       What’s your strategy?

  •       Do your teachers know what is expected of them?

  •       Do you meet regularly with your teachers?

  •       What are one or two things that you choose as priorities for your school?

  •      Are you spending time on the things that advance your vision/mission? What can you delegate?


Transformational prompts that seek to understand, provoke reflection, and help clarify 

  •    What would you like me to know? (This question gives the leader control of the material.)

  •    What makes this situation important to you?

  •    If you were coaching someone about this challenge, what would you tell her?

  •    If this were a movie scene, how would you rewrite it?

  •    How do you foster relationships?

  •    What does success look like?

  •    How will you know when you’re successful?

  •    How do you articulate your vision?

  •    What parts of your work give you the most pleasure and satisfaction? Which parts don’t?

  •    What are you encouraged by?

  •    Are you thinking as a teacher or a leader? (New leaders often need help making this distinction.)

  •    What are you doing that’s having the biggest impact on students?


Observational prompts anchored in being bold

  • A pattern I notice is…

  • Drama is seductive

Prompt without language

  • Silence. (Silence allows reflection, particularly for people who are introverts. Silence often elicits rich information.)


Prompts for self-care

  • How are you taking care of your physical self? Emotional self? Spiritual self? Is it in your calendar?

  • Are you getting enough sleep?


Potential Traps

  • Asking leading rather than curious questions

  • Over-reliance on asking questions when being bold and interrupting patterns would be more effective

  • “Why” questions can sound accusatory and cause defensiveness. Ask What questions instead

  • Asking multiple questions at a time is confusing

  • Asking sarcastic or judgmental questions, such as “Shouldn’t you find a way?,” “Why did you do that?,” or “What’s the point of that?”