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3 Ws and 1 H

A question mark, photo my Emily Moore.


Ask yourself three questions beginning with the letter W. Then follow up with another question that starts with H. Did why, what, who, and how make your list?

If so, you’re winning.

Answering why is imperative. It guides strategies for any successful endeavor. For writing projects, the response to why guides the selection of words to reach the audience.

The previous sentence leads me to who. Who is your reader? If you cannot identify anyone who cares about your topic, it’s time to return to the outline and brainstorm ideas.

What is the subject? Read, watch, and listen to the literature about your topic. You must familiarize yourself with the research and what you can add to the conversation.

How will you write it? Length and headings belong to this category and offer your prose structure.

These guiding questions support solid writing. It applies to writing an abstract, blog post, article, or book. See "The Process: Writing a Winning Conference Abstract" for a video explanation.

Clarity is critical to delivery. You can use a similar outline in teaching and advising roles.

Keep reading and allow me to explain.   

When you lesson plan, ask yourself Why, What, Who and How. Answering these questions solidifies learning objectives and dictates the content. Your responses empower you to use culturally relevant examples to help students learn and make connections beyond the classroom.

In advising sessions, if you get advisees to answer questions about their problems, you can help them create solutions. The ownership of solutions aids greater investment in the implementation process.

I can’t take full credit for this. My colleague used these fundamental questions to help students dissect learning objectives during advising sessions. We agreed they could help others in the field of education.

This week, I applied the approach to a presentation on a topic outside my research expertise.

About a month ago, a coworker asked me to speak for his church's annual Men's Talk. The group wanted a doctor to provide an informative talk about dementia. Although I'm not a neurologist, I accepted the invitation.

Why? Life is only worth living if you step outside the comfort zone.

While I prepared for the event, I asked myself why, what, who, and how questions to create the presentation slides. After sharing a statistic about the growth of dementia in Latin America and Caribbean countries, I pulled in experiences with my father-in-law, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Then, I discussed the academic literature, risks, preventable measures, and treatment options.

After the presentation, I received a surplus of positive feedback and questions. I reiterated that I am not a medical doctor, but with confidence in the research, I answered every question. Multiple attendees and the organizer invited me to return.

When you begin your next writing project or oral presentation, try the 3 Ws + 1H approach. Let me know how it works out 4 you.

To learn more about my teaching interests and instructional design skills, visit this page to view my updated portfolio.

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