The MESH teachers of the The Changemaker Academy and I recently participated in an online workshop offered through Harvard and The Right Question Institute, entitled "Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions: Best Practices in the Question Formulation Technique." I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn more about best practices. But don't take my word on it! Check out what Ms. Perna, the English teacher, had to say about the class and the technique:
As an English teacher I pride myself on my ability to frame questions about a text in order to foster in-depth thinking about characters, setting and theme. But, as we shift to the Project Based Learning model next year, I know it is not my questions that are the important ones. Students will be taking the reins of their own learning in new and powerful ways and part of that process will be leaning to ask the right questions. That also sounds like a daunting tasks for ninth grades (and for me!) How do I give students more power over what they are learning, while still making sure we are hitting all of the standards, aligning curriculum and fostering the reading and writing skills that will help them be successful communicators?
The Question Formulation Technique really helped to show me the possibilities. By thinking through the focus you want students to think about, offering prompts and specific guidelines you are guiding students in the right direction. It is not a free for all of anything goes. Rather I, the teacher, set up the perimeters and they, the students, start the exploration.
I’ve been using this technique with some of my tenth graders as we study Macbeth. When I used the QFT to preview Macbeth and being introducing themes of the play, I was surprised by the questions they created. It wasn’t that they were that different than the essential questions I normally propose. Rather they were somewhat similar, but because they created them and they reworked them, the students are more invested in finding the answers. Now as we continue to read and look at guilt and ambition, it is with a renewed interest because they have a stake in the answers.