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.

Asking Good Questions?

Tristan de Frondeville Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

In the project learning model we teach, every project has a Driving Question. Obviously, we spend a lot of time developing that particular question. It is generally the hardest task for the teachers with which we work, as it is where the teacher commits to finding the most engaging, authentic (related to adult work when possible) question that will speak to the student's personal excitement WHILE also teaching to the standards [a difficult tension and balance].
However, asking good questions (driving questions, project sub-questions, and general questioning in the classroom) is one way to make life and learning an adventure. How do we ask good questions as teachers? And how do we teach the asking of good questions?
As a math teacher, my students would laugh because 99% of the time I answered their questions with a question. Also, when I was helping students one on one, I prided myself on guiding their learning with good questions....until I discovered one day an article where a student said about tutoring: "When I am tutored, I can asnwer all the questions, but when I am taking the test in class, I can't remember the questions!"
That is when I realized that when we ask good questions as teachers, we don't necessarily fully 'close the loop.' We have to find ways for students to be staring at the blank piece of paper (on a test, or in their mind), and then 'create the question for themselves that they have to answer.' Any ideas on how we help students develop that skill?

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Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

HOW to find questions....

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"What surprises you?" is a standard question I ask students when they observe a phenomenon, watch a video clip, read a text passage. It makes them compare what they know and expect with what they observe. It points out gaps in their knowledge and stuff that doesn't fit. It develops metacognition and it's sort of fun. Because in the end, surprise is next door to delight. And surprises often lead to deep and meaningful quests for answers - a research grant or a project that fits a student's particular interests.

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