Project learning can inspire the best of high-performance teamwork, or it can be devolve into unfocused chaos. How can we support each other to keep our eye on the prize? Share your project ideas, questions, and implementation experiences.

Developing the Question

Maryann Instructional Technology Consultant

I am reading and viewing information about project based learning from Intel Teach: Elements, the Project Based Approach, the Buck Institute for Education and Edutopia. The Intel site calls the question the Curriculum Framing Questions of which there are 3 parts: Essential Question, Unit Questions and Content Questions. The Buck Institute calls for a Driving Question. Is the driving question the same as the essential question?

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6th grade social studies & science teacher from Colorado


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Although I cannot say for sure. I do believe the Driving Question is the same as an Essential Question. I think developing that culture of questioning is a huge key to successful project-based learning. Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design also talks about essential questions. What I have discovered about these driving/essential questions is that many sources talk about them in slightly different ways. Also, the unit and content questions are sometimes called "guiding questions." Don't get hung up on the name. Just make sure your culture of questioning is engaging. I think we as educators sometimes get caught up in what I call "boring teacher questions" and that defeats the power of questions to be "essential" or "drive" the learning. Good luck!

Reggio Emilian inspired, Montessori trained Kindergarten teacher from FL

Most importantly, is the

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Most importantly, is the question the one that is being pondered or one driven by what the teacher thinks she hears? Sometimes once a project gets going, and there doesn't seem to be enough interest in it, or you can't seem to sustain it, then you have to ask is it really the driving question? What was behind the reason we selected this as the project? Revisit the dialogue and situation that brought you to select the project. What elements of the discussion were also interesting to the students? Can there be a way to integrate these other components into the ongoing project? So digging inside of the driving question can help you uncover the essential question. So for me, in my experience, they aren't always the same but are connected and can help each other.

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