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In this activity…

Students learn about learner and judger questions and how the questions you ask influence your future opportunities and outcomes. They practice choosing the learner path and develop an appreciation for curiosity.  

And the point is…

Some students are not familiar with the concept of mindset. Initially, they might struggle to understand that they can choose how they “show-up” to any given moment. Other students may have heard the terms growth and fixed mindset thrown around and have a superficial knowledge base that they can draw on. Regardless of their baseline knowledge, this activity will be a valuable opportunity to explore real-world examples of learner and judger questions, and the implications of these questions on everyday opportunities. Students will also develop the skills needed to actively apply this knowledge both inside and outside the classroom.

Materials: Projector, paper, writing and colouring supplies


The foundation of rumbling skills is curiosity. Curiosity involves seeking out knowledge and new experiences; it involves asking questions. Help students understand that the questions we ask, influence our ability to remain open-minded and open-hearted in challenging conversations, or difficult circumstances. In general, our questions can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Learner questions: open-minded curious and creative questions that lead to progress and possibilities.

    What are the facts and what am I assuming? How can I help? What is possible? What steps can we take to improve the situation?
  2. Judger questions: close-minded, critical, and self-centered questions that lead to negativity, criticism, blame, and defensiveness.

    How can I prove I’m right? Why bother? Who is to blame?

Ask students if they have examples of any other learner or judger questions that they tend to ask themselves. It would be helpful to talk about factors that might affect our ability to ask learner versus judger questions. For example:

  • Does your mood influence the question that you ask?
  • Do the people around you affect the questions that you ask? If so, how?
  • Do different environments make it easier or harder to ask learner questions? If so, how? What can we do to make this environment more conducive to learning?
  • Do you think you have control over what kind of questions you ask or the perspective you take? Why or why not?

Introduce the choice-map and explain that you can choose to take a learner or judger path based on the questions that we ask. Ask students to imagine that it’s them standing on this map.

Explain that when a thought, feeling, or circumstance impacts us at any moment, our natural/instinctual reaction is to take the judger path. The judger path is characterized by automatic, rapid reactions that are focused on blame and negativity, and which take a win/lose approach. Tell students that, when they are on the judger path, they might try to determine who's at fault and they may ask themselves what they did wrong. Unfortunately, the judger path leads to the judger pit – an uncomfortable place of pessimism, stress, reactivity, defensiveness, and shame. Ask students to give examples of questions they might be asking themselves at this point. To help them out, suggest that someone in the judger pit might be thinking, “Why am I such a failure?”, “Why are they so stupid?”, or “Why bother?”.

Next, explain that everyone asks both learner and judger questions, and we can choose which questions to ask – moment by moment by moment. Inform students that, although their initial reaction might take them down the judger path, they can choose to switch lanes and take the learner path.

The learner path involves conscious and thoughtful decision making, it is solution-focused, and it leads to win/win situations. Examples of questions that students may ask themselves on the learner path include, “What happened?”, “What am I responsible for?”, “What assumptions am I making?”, and “What are my choices?”.

Ask students to brainstorm the benefits associated with being on the learner path. Hopefully, students will be able to identify that the learner path broadens their perspective, leads to more possibilities, and is more conducive to problem-solving, teamwork, and success.

Finally, ask students to identify which pathway they would rather be on and continue your storytelling with some more nuanced aspects of the map:

Readdress the fact that it is possible to switch from the judger to the learner path. Then, explain that as students practice this switching process, the switching lane will start appearing earlier in the process and it will become easier and easier to follow that lane.

Tell students that, to switch from the judger to the learner path, they need to develop a degree of self-awareness about their current experiences as well as their future direction. To help guide this self-reflection, students can ask themselves:

  • Am I in Judger?
  • Is this how I want to feel?
  • Where would I rather be?
  • How else can I think about this?

Tell students that the specific questions they ask themselves along each path will be different for different people. The destination of each pathway will also look different. For example, one student’s judger pit will look a lot different than another student’s because of the things that they tell themselves and the insecurities that they have. Similarly, explain that students may need different tools, resources and reminders to help them switch from the judger to the learner path.

For the rest of this period, ask students to draw their own, personalized choice map that includes:

  • The questions they ask themselves when they are on the judger and learner path
  • The feelings or behaviours associated with both pathways
  • The destination of the pathways (i.e. judger pit and learner opportunities)
  • The circumstances (ex. mood, people, environment) that may increase the likelihood of taking the judger or learner path (represented by the environment around the path)
  • The questions they need to ask themselves to switch
  • The resources and tools that would make it easier to switch
  • What might prevent them from switching (represented by barriers along the switching lane)

The completed maps will be handed in so that you can individually support students in an efficient, effective, and respectful manner. Once you have reviewed the maps, encourage students to keep them on their desks or somewhere visible. These maps will act as a visual reminder to take the learner path and they will encourage students on the Judger path to find the switching lane.

The Personalized choice map example is available in the download section of this page.


What if I don’t know that I am on the Judger path?

That’s a good question because you need to know where you are before trying to switch paths. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to develop more self-awareness:

  • How am I feeling? When you are on the judger path you might feel stressed, anxious, guilty, ashamed, or hopeless.
  • What behaviours do I want to engage in? When you are on the judger path you often want to engage in “attack” or defensive behaviours.
  • Am I reacting or responding to the situation? When you are on the judger path your thoughts and behaviours are automatic reactions, whereas when you are on the learner path you try to thoughtfully respond to a situation.
  • If someone else would hear the questions I’m asking myself, where might they put me on the map? Sometimes it’s easier to think about which pathway you are on from an outside perspective.

What if I am unable to switch from the judger to the learner path?

Everyone is capable of switching paths. It might be hard at first and it will be tempting to stay on the judger path but, over time, switching will become easier and faster. It is also common to overestimate how hard or uncomfortable it will be to switch from the judger to learner path as a way to procrastinate. In reality, switching from the judger to learner path is easier than you might think, but it requires awareness and practice. At first, your experience with the choice map will revolve around catching your Judger and shifting gears. As you practice, the learner path becomes more natural and might even become your “default setting”.

What if I don’t want to switch?

Let’s rumble. I’m curious as to why you don’t want to switch.

Listen to the student’s explanation, thank them for sharing and validate any fears, worries or doubts they have. Make sure that you are both on the same page by explicitly identifying the student’s problem. Then, rumble with them to find a solution. If the student is very resistant, ask them to try working with the Choice Map for one week before circling back to this conversation. If it’s appropriate, you can also challenge the student to consider their current mindset: They are probably on the judger path and would benefit from switching to the learner path.