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Stop asking the question. Let the students ask instead! ‹The Question Formulation Technique›

Stop asking the question. Let the students ask instead! ‹The Question Formulation Technique›

April 20, 2017


    Most often, teachers introduce a new topic in a class by asking questions. The learners will then be engaged in the process of finding the answers. However, some educators argue that flipping the technique in such a way that the students construct their questions about a newly introduced topic, is much more encouraging and productive because of many reasons. It builds interest among the learners, gets them engaged in the learning process, enables them to master their learning, and most importantly provides them with the opportunity to acquire the skill of participating and interacting with a team.

Photo 1

But students need first to know how to formulate the questions that relate to the designated topic. The Question Formulation Technique, QFT, designed by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, the directors of the Right Question Institute, is one of the ways that would help them to do that.

The QFT comprises of seven steps:

  1. A Question Focus (Q. Focus)

The teacher will initiate the process by setting a focus around which questions will have to be set by the learners. It can be a topic, photo, phrase or situation that will serve as the “focus” for generating questions. For example, let us assume that a science teacher wants to explain the topic of a force of gravity. He/she may display these two photos without giving any explanation or any introduction.

photo 2

One photo is for Newton’s apple falling, and the other for a man floating in the air.  Both photos would stand as a stimulus and would create excitement among the learners.

  1. The Rules for Producing Questions

The teacher will arrange the students in teams. And before they start formulating questions, he/she sets some rules that will govern their work. The students:

  • Can ask as many questions as they can.
  • Should not stop to judge, discuss, edit, or answer any question.
  • Must write down every question exactly as it was asked.
  • Must change statements into questions.
  1. Producing Questions

The teacher explains the difference between open-ended and closed-ended questions and gives some examples of each type.  He/she will explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

  1. Categorizing Questions

The students will now practice changing the open-ended questions into closed-ended questions and vice-versa.

  1. Prioritizing Questions

Learners will then short-list all the questions being proposed, and then prioritize the questions in order to come out with 3-5 priority questions related to the two science photos. They would discuss how they would be using their prioritized questions in producing a small-scale research about the force of gravity.

  1. What to do with the questions?

The students will now do some online research, trying to find answers to their five prioritized questions. They must agree among themselves on producing and writing down one favored answer for each and every question. The teacher will then discuss with them these answers and finally conclude the session with a wrap-up summary that would ensure they have achieved the two learning objectives that have been set up for this unit.

  1. Reflection.

Finally, the teacher will probe the student’s opinions about the QFT in comparison with the traditional way. He/she may ask the learners the following questions:

1- How did you find this way of learning? Is it easy or difficult? Enjoyable or boring?

2- Would you like to make changes to the method to make it easier?

3- Would you like to be taught through this way in every unit of the science course, or you would prefer the traditional way?

4- Would you ask teachers of other subject matters, to apply the same QFT method, or you think it is good only for science?


April 20, 2017
Faculty Lounge, Lesson Plans & Ideas, Teaching & Learning
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