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Asking the Right Questions

September 13, 2011

There was a recent article in the Harvard Education Letter about a technique to improve the questioning skills of students.  It explained a process called the Question Formulation Technique.

The article reminded me of two conflicting issues.   First, is allowing students to lead their own learning.  Second, is the pace at which we need to deliver mandated curriculum.  We talk a fair amount about a student-centered approach to instruction where the students themselves help guide what they learn.  The QFT process is an important tool in the student-centered tool box.

However, with the scripted curriculum expectations from the Michigan State Department of Education it is often difficult to find the appropriate amount of time for exploration.  Allowing students the opportunity to focus on their own areas of interest around specific topics can be challenging if they don’t align with content standards and/or grade level expectations.  As with most things, balance and practice are the keys.

Overall, the QFT is an interesting process.  It can allow for deeper conversations about topics, as well as developing a critical skill that we all need as adults.

Following are some details about the QFT process:

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?

Next Steps
• How are you going to use your questions?
© The Right Question Institute.

The technique can be used at all ages and in a variety of situations.  The ability to ask the right questions is an important lifelong skill – this technique can help cultivate the skill in our students.

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