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Chapter 4: Your Assumptions and Beliefs

The Ladder of Influence outlines the thinking process associated with decision making. The stages are often described as rungs on a ladder.

The Ladder of Inference describes the thinking process that we go through, usually without realizing it, to get from objective facts to a decision or action. We move through these steps, climbing up the ladder, in an instant. We selectively focus in on what we already "know" to be true and ignore everything else. This isn't an intentional process, its an automatic one.


Only by slowing down, examining your assumptions and beliefs (and being open to others challenging them) will you be able to better confirm, revise or replace your actions with ones that align to your stated assumptions and beliefs. 

Apps and Resources

Ladder of Inference: From bottom to top - Objective Facts, Selected Reality, Meaning, Assumptions, Conclusions, Beliefs, Actions.
Person diving into the water from  water slide at an amusement park. Text reads: Never "dive in" without checking your assumpions and beliefs first.

Pause and Reflect

We've compiled the pause and reflect questions from the book into a Google Doc. 


Feel free to make a copy and work inside the document, or record your thoughts using another form of media. 

Chapter 4 - Pause and Reflect


Attending to our beliefs is central to continuous improvement. When we talk about adult learning and how educators grow and change, we look at more than knowledge and skills...we must also address beliefs, attitudes, values, and assumptions. If we don’t consider the mental models that educators hold, whether about specific students in their classrooms or their own efficacy, it can be difficult to transform practice or sustain the implementation of new learning.

What do you believe you believe?


Wade In

DCBA - Daily Challenge Your Beliefs & Assumptions

In his business blog post, Scott Mautz's 9 Ways to Challenge Your Assumptions, easily translate into our classrooms and schools.

Consider using the nine questions with your colleagues as a starting point around a discussion of long (and deeply) held beliefs about learning and teaching.

While the author doesn't suggest daily reflection, we think a daily challenge to your assumptions and beliefs is right up there with taking time for daily gratitude.


Making time daily helps ensures you don't forget about it in the busy day to day activity within your classroom.

Looking up at a ladder. Text reads: 9 ways to challenge assumptions. Long description availabl through link.

Turn Your Window Into a Mirror

Dr. Anthony Muhammad acknowledges that is is easy to analyze and criticize others (window). He asks us to turn our critical eye towards ourselves with the intent of improving rather than venting (mirror).

In schools we often have groups who form not to improve and look for solutions, to vent. Rather than have difficult conversations about assumptions and beliefs and whether they are aligned with our actions, we come together to complain. Dr. Muhammad suggests focusing less on our rights and more on our responsibilities to improve the culture of the school.


Shallow Swim

Ladder of Influence

The Ladder of Influence is 6 steps is an excellent way to slow down and analyze how we arrive at the actions we take.

After the video which explores how easily our assumptions can be faulty, use the blank Ladder of Influence to explore 

some of your assumptions and 

beliefs about learners and learning.

You might want to explore

questions about testing from

page 35 in the Dive Into UDL

book or perhaps think about

some aspect of the 

school day where "TTWWADI"


Consider completing the Ladder of Inference with a group of teachers and then comparing and discussing where you agree and where you disagree. As Dr. Stephen Katz says in the video Effective Professional Learning, "Diversity of opinion matters...and we use it as a launchpad for deepening our understanding, because that's what professional learning is.  

Download Ladder of Inference (PDF)


Deep Dive

Integrative Thinking

This overview video on Integrative Thinking could be used with staff or students. Integrative thinking moves beyond choosing options A or B, and through the creative process helps people discover an option that integrates aspects of A and B but is superior to both. 

There are four steps in the process:

  1. Articulate the models by defining the opposing models

  2. Examine the models

  3. Explore Possibilities

  4. Assess the Prototypes

The process encourages everyone to look at both models to find the positives about each. This is done through imagining what aspects of each model a stakeholder would find positive. It removes the "con" aspect which often entrenches people in their choice.

This case study on Integrative Thinking provides an excellent leadership

example of the Pro Pro Chart in action. Although the process takes time,

its has great potential to shift mindsets and bring people together in their

thinking and action.

The following three videos explore the use of the Pro Pro Chart. Although it is a high school example, it easily translates into professional learning.

Positive Problem Solving Using the Pro Pro Chart (part 1)

Positive Problem Solving Using the Pro Pro Chart (part 2)

Positive Problem Solving Using the Pro Pro Chart (part 3)


Think about ways you might use this type process with colleagues or staff. How could it support new models or methods that some are opposed to or disagree with? How might it help move conversations help those vehemently opposed to an idea or change see their ideas reflected in the solution? How could you use it to explore the assumptions and beliefs around UDL or PBL? 

Download Integrative Thinking: Creating Better Solutions (PDF)

Join the conversation on Twitter.

What we measure and count is our focus. Our focus then becomes our filter, reinforcing what we "know" about our students. With this laser focus we often miss the gorilla in the room. What's your gorilla? #DiveIntoUDL #LadderOfInfluence

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