Using Sinek’s Golden Circle in the schoolroom.

The below is a summary of an action research project conducted by Shawn Jacob and Erica Hamilton.

The authors of  the case study argue that it is important to connect one’s learning to the real world as this will enable students to utilise and apply creativity as well as to develop perseverance, conscientiousness, and optimism. 

Hamilton and Jacob believe that a way this can be done in the classroom is by using the ‘Golden Circle’ as described by Sinek. Sinek suggests that all successful businesses promote their products and become successful not by asking ‘what’ but by starting with ‘WHY?’ they do what they do. The use of the “Golden Circle’ (first ask Why, then How, and lastly What) means that at the heart of what is asked, is the ‘Why?’. Why are we doing something? Why is something important? This can push students to focus on the larger purpose and meaning of what they will  learn.

the authors conclude with some suggestions on how to help students ask and answer ‘WHY?’

  1. Students work individually or in groups to answer questions on a particular topic. There are stopping points, throughout the lesson, which allow them to reflect on their answers and say whether their answers have (or have not) changed based on the new information. They answer ‘why’ this might be the case. This can be done in a range of ways, such as informal discussions, blog posts, symbolic artwork, etc.
  2. Provide students with the new material they will be studying and ask them to design some questions. They work through the material and reflect on why they designed certain questions and why these might matter for the new material or why different questions would have been more conducive to their understanding of new concepts.
  3. While learning something new, ask students to reflect on why learning this might be important or how it might link to their everyday lives.
  4. Challenge students to design an ongoing project or interview someone who might be an expert in the material they are learning (ie. an academic, a blogger, etc.). This will allow them to make further connections with the topic and raise their awareness of how topics studied in the classroom are realised in the real world.
  5. Their questions on ‘why’ can be answered through meaningful and transformative ways. This can be further elaborated by building in the curriculum ‘real world’ themes such as: global awareness, civic literacy, environmental literacy, etc.


if you want to watch Sinek’s TED talk:

Hamilton, E. & Jacob, S. 2016. Asking ‘why?’ matters: the case of a high school English language teacher, The Journal of Teacher Action Research, 3(1), 76-91.

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