Inquiring Minds

It is essential to learn the proper questions to direct the learning process. Asking questions can help to create an environment of deeper thinking and even more so when the students are the ones that are posing the questions.

Have you ever had someone ask the right question?  What I am referring to is a question, that makes you pause and think.  Those that become good at asking the right questions drive thinking, can create changes

When students leave our classrooms and go out into the great wide open, long gone will be the days when someone is asking them questions to drive them to the next thought. We need students to learn to question and think for themselves. They need to learn how to analyze media and get to the root of what is being said.

Most knowledge is formulated in the earlier ages. Why? They wear everyone out with questions of course! It is amazing the number of wonders present in younger students.  They want to know about everything and are not afraid to ask.

The older students get, the less apt they are to ask questions. Part of this is because we are strapped for time and try to hurry it along, maybe we are afraid of the crickets (no one asking questions), or we are fearful of where the inquiry may go if the students control the asking. These fears result in teachers monopolizing the questions and robbing students of the opportunity to take ownership of the process. By the time these students are in middle school and high school, they have learned that having the correct answer is most important and the questions come from the teacher. This focus of attention tends to create an environment in which students do not want to look silly for asking a question.

We have to reverse the flow at times to get those students ready to be leaders and to empower them with the will to think about what they know is true and questions what they hear and read.

How do we reverse the flow?

Question Formulation Technique is a great place to start.

Step 1- Question Focus

Peek students interest in a topic with a picture, a statement, an article, a video, etc. It is important to not make it a question. This is a springboard for the questions that will be formulated. I would suggest presented this to the students ahead of time and allow them time to contemplate. You could post this on a class blog or on your LMS.  After all, where do we usually get ideas for research? Through the viewing of others presentation of knowledge of course!

Step 2- Questions

Begin propagating a list or cloud of questions (it doesn’t matter the shape). Have students ask as many questions as they can, do not stop to discuss, answer, or judge the questions. Write the questions exactly as the student poses them and have them change all statements they make into questions as well. You could use a Google Doc, Padlet, etc.

Step 3- Improve the Questions

Once the question time has ceased, begin looking at the questions that have been presented. Analyze and Identify the questions as Googleable or Non-Googleable. Consider at this time having students changing a question to a Non-Googleable question. This can be done by circling the Non-Googleable questions or possibly making a spreadsheet or chart separating the questions. Don’t dismiss Googleable questions as not important, because they can be vital to the research.

Step 4- Prioritizing Questions

Have students reflect back to the essential question and learning goal and create a focus for your research. Have students select the questions that would bring about the best research for the topic or goal. Discuss the rationale behind the decision to include the questions. This step takes the thinking from divergent to convergent and brings back a focus to what really needs to be known to complete the task. Giving students a rubric or creating a list of criteria will help students prioritize the questions.

Step 5- Next Step

Begin research, lessons, or projects. Students have a more thorough knowledge of what they are working on and to.

Step 6- Reflection

Use the questions to reflect on the learning whether it is lessons or projects. These questions can be used as a model for a Socratic Seminar type final review of the unit. Reflecting on the questions and knowledge learned helps the student to internalize and remember.

Remember, it takes time to build the classroom environment that allows questions to easily generate. Many students are out of practice, so scaffolding, in the beginning, is important. Once you build a culture of questioning, you will see a change at so many levels in your classroom.




Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make just one change: teach students to ask their own questions. Harvard Education Press, 2014.
“Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions.” Right Question Institute,

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