Source: Harvard GSE, Sep 2011
When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own. However, this skill is rarely, if ever, deliberately taught to students from kindergarten through high school. Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity or engage them more effectively. We have found that teaching students to ask their own questions can accomplish these same goals while teaching a critical lifelong skill.
The Question Formulation Technique
Dupuy, Muhammad, and many other teachers are using a step-by-step process that we and our colleagues at the Right Question Institute have developed called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). This technique helps students learn how to produce their own questions, improve them, and strategize on how to use them (see sidebar “Question Formulation Technique”).
The QFT has six key steps:
Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus
Step 2: Students Produce Questions. Students use a set of rules that provide a clear protocol for producing questions without assistance from the teacher. The four rules are: ask as many questions as you can; do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions; write down every question exactly as it was stated; and change any statements into questions.
Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions. Students then improve their questions by analyzing the differences between open- and closed-ended questions and by practicing changing one type to the other.
Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions.
Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps.
Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned.
Question Formulation Technique
Produce Your Questions
Four essential rules for producing your own questions:
• Ask as many questions as you can.
• Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions.
• Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
• Change any statement into a question.
Improve Your Questions
• Categorize the questions as closed- or open-ended.
• Name the advantages and disadvantages of each type of question.
• Change questions from one type to another.
Prioritize the Questions
• Choose your three most important questions.
• Why did you choose these three as the most important?
• How are you going to use your questions?