Opinion
Professional Development Opinion

Who Cares About Questioning Strategies?

April 11, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Maryann Woods-Murphy

When I was in high school, I asked too many questions. Some teachers brightened when my hand shot up, but others sighed when they heard me ask, “Who decides what justice is?” or “How do we know that we really know anything?”

With questions solidly in my wheelhouse, it makes sense that when I became a teacher, I would see the immense value of inquiry-driven instruction. Questions build intrinsic motivation. They cause us to lean in and look for answers. Now, in my dual role as Gifted and Talented Teacher and Instructional Coach, I find myself continually seeking strategies to help my colleagues teach students to ask their own questions.

A colleague of mine who is also passionate about inquiry driven instruction recently reminded me that though educators talk about “rigor” and create “essential questions” for their classrooms, there is little guidance for educators about how to do this well. I had an

aha moment when I recently discovered The Right Question Institute (RQI), an organization entirely devoted to questioning as a path to democracy. The site supplies abundant and free educator resources, many based on their Question Formulation Technique (QFT) crafted 20 years ago out of a desire to help people ask their own questions and find excellent community-based solutions. The method offers resources for educators yearning for simple, yet powerful ways to engage students in the art of questioning.

I took to QFT with the zeal of convert. The QFT offers teachers a step-by-step approach to teach students to generate meaningful questions that connect to their own interests. Every QFT session starts off reviewing the rules for Question Formulation from Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions by Rothstein and Santana (2011):


  1. Ask as many questions as you can.
  2. Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any question.
  3. Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
  4. Change any statement into a question.

When students understand and have discussed these rules, present them with a QFocus, which is a visual, verbal or aural prompt. For my first QFT session, I used a QFocus of a Margaret Meade quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Soon students began scribbling questions like, “What does it mean to be committed?” and “Why does anyone want to change the world?” even “What makes people doubt that they can change the world?”

I get goose bumps seeing what children think and do when we provide them with a space for inquiry. Their questions often provide a springboard to real rigor and deeper learning. Anchor charts and posters filled with engaging student questions cover our walls and stimulated more discussions and even deeper questions.

The French writer Voltaire (1694-1778) reminded us, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” When students learn how to ask their own questions, educators have the chance to trace their thought patterns and present them with paths to original and authentic research projects. Content-loving teachers can then help their students curate resources that will help them find meaningful answers. When students learn to ask their own questions, they soon understand that what they care about most, matters in school.

Maryann Woods-Murphy is the 2010 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year. She currently serves as the Nutley Public School District, Gifted and Talented Specialist in Nutley, New Jersey.

Photo from Creative Commons through Pixabay: child-1127087__340--pikabay.

The opinions expressed in Teacher-Leader Voices are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Professional Development Spotlight Spotlight on Professional Development for Technology
This Spotlight will help you you evaluate your PD priorities and approaches, get insights on how others are pivoting their programs and more.
Professional Development Opinion If You’re Conducting PD, Seek Engagement With Educators
Professional development can seem one-sided when the facilitator has all the power. Pre-engagement surveys can effectively turn that dynamic around.
4 min read
Theory and Practice
Shutterstock
Professional Development Opinion Developing Success Criteria With PD Participants to Engage in Deeper Learning
Success criteria show educators how we believe they will be successful at the end of a lesson. Let's involve them in the process.
4 min read
Professional Development Opinion 4 Essential Elements Needed Right Now to Engage in Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching is growing, but there are some important elements to consider before anyone engages in a coaching relationship.
6 min read
shutterstock 1586195833
Shutterstock