Did you miss our information literacy webinar on asking questions in the Google age? Find out more about the Question Formulation Technique.
More than 450 educators attended November’s information literacy webinar, “Asking Questions in the Age of Google,” featuring John Sessler of the Right Question Institute (RQI) and teacher-librarian Connie Williams, who recently retired from the Petaluma school district in California. The webinar introduced attendees to the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a strategy that 250,000 educators worldwide are using to teach students how to formulate their own questions. As students produce, work with, and use their own questions, they not only sharpen their critical thinking skills but also take ownership of their learning.
Here are some key takeaways from the session:
The ability to formulate questions is a critical skill that students need to make discerning choices about the information they’re bombarded with via technology and the media.
The skill of asking questions drops drastically starting around age four; young learners are full of questions, but the focus tends to shift away from questioning as students get older.
Most standards and frameworks (1) address the need for inquiry-based curriculum that centers on student questioning and (2) include a call to action, such as civic activity or scientific investigation. Standards are guiding us to make the move from “being” to “doing,” and that includes active participation at all levels throughout our lives.
Through questioning, students can learn that there are many ways to think about events. Teaching them how to question events from multiple points of view helps them better understand those events and apply those lessons to events happening today.
Connie Williams states, “Our goal is to incorporate the questioning habit into students’ lives so that when they face decision-making problems as adults, they’ll know how to ask the right questions and then identify the answers that provide valid evidence to support those decisions.”
About the Question Formulation Technique
The goal of the QFT is to support a shift from teachers being the only ones asking questions to a classroom where students have opportunities to drive their learning with their own questions. When students ask questions, their questions become a catalyst for greater curiosity, engagement, ownership and deeper learning.
The QFocus is a stimulus — a springboard that educators use to ask questions. It can be a topic, image, phrase or situation that serve as the “focus” for generating questions. The QFocus should be clear, should provoke critical thinking, and should not be a question. Images work especially well with younger learners.
The Rules for Producing Questions are (1) Ask as many questions as you can, (2) Do not stop to answer, judge, or discuss, (3) Write down every question exactly as stated, and (4) Change any statements into questions.
The QFT requires divergent thinking (thinking in many directions), convergent thinking (narrowing down, focusing), and metacognitive thinking (thinking about your own thinking).
Tips for Using the QFT
Use the QFT with students before an event (field trip, play, guest speaker, etc.) to help them get the most out of the experience.
If students get stuck in their research, tell them to go back to their question. Questions can and should be malleable — as students’ questions lead them down new paths of inquiry, their initial question may change and develop with their newfound knowledge.
In addition to the QFT, create an environment that reinforces the importance of questioning. Make students’ thinking visible by posting their questions around the room. Have students cross them off as they are answered throughout a unit. Ask them to create new questions and add onto their list as their curiosity leads them in new directions.
Additionally, since our presenters did not have time to answer all the questions posed by attendees during the live session, Connie Williams and RQI’s Andrew Minigan have kindly responded to those questions. Click the button below to download the Q&A.