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Intended Learning Outcome:

To establish the root cause of a statement


In the 1930s, Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Whys technique. This is a root cause analysis. It is an iterative technique used to root cause of a situation by asking the question why, five times. This can be used during discussions to explore the reasons for a belief or preference as well as exploring causes for a problem.


Establish the situation to be questioned. Then ask why (for example the statement is ‘I love that song’ – Why? Because of the tune. Why do you love the tune? etc.) This is a great way to get students to explore their musical tastes.

You may need to ensure that they have the correct language for the discussion first – for example in Song Analysis sessions exploring why a student likes a song could come after they have analysed all the component of a song. you are then asking them to apply that knowledge.



Large Group Teaching:

With large groups, you can either run this as a solo activity, questioning one student with others observing, then asking all students to carry out the process on their own statement. You could then put students into groups to discuss. The statement could be a general one such as ‘music will only be purchased via streaming in the future’ and discussed in small groups.

Online Teaching:


This activity encourages students to question the statements they make, being more critical, and therefore developing a greater awareness.

Next Steps:

If students are stuck in answering the 5 Whys they may need more information and further learning is required., You could then return to the 5 Whys to check the learning.


Links to other activities:

Further reading:



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