Use this free planning resource to get started right away or improve a lesson plan you already have
by Chris Orchard
Educators who are thinking about using the Question Formulation Technique, known as the QFT, often have two competing thoughts. (If you’re not familiar with the QFT, check out this brief description in ASCD’s Educational Leadership, then come back here.)
On one hand, they’re enthusiastic. They’re eager to spark students’ curiosity. They think the QFT process will be engaging and eye-opening. They reckon it could help all students become more engaged and claim ownership of their learning.
On the other hand, educators can be hesitant. For teachers, spare hours are in short supply, to put it mildly. Time-strapped educators interested in using the QFT often ask, “Where do I begin?” Well, keep reading. We’ve developed an online planning tool to help you design a QFT lesson plan from scratch or tinker with one you’d like to refine.
Putting the horse before the cart
In addition to the ongoing time-drought teachers face, there are other important things to keep in mind: curriculums to follow, standardized tests to prepare for, metrics of all shapes and sizes to consider. Some educators wonder if student-produced questions will advance these learning goals or squander valuable time.
It’s important to emphasize the QFT can advance curriculums, learning goals, Common Core standards, and other priorities determined by teachers and school administrators – all while promoting student engagement, developing students’ critical thinking skills, and stimulating student curiosity. Put another way, the QFT is a tool that can enhance your ongoing work in the classroom.
In a sense, it’s a shortcut, not a detour, that can help support your teaching and learning goals.
For this reason, when using our online planning tool, you start with your intended learning objectives, and the rest of the planning follows from there. It’s important, after all, to put the horse before the cart. This requires some honest contemplation on your part, but the planning tool helps you tie every step back to those key learning goals. They help keep your eyes on the prize as you design your QFT lesson plan.
Getting started with the online QFT planning tool – it’s free
The planning tool leads you through a step-by-step process and helps you test-drive ideas. The first half of the tool asks questions such as, “What are your teaching objectives for the lesson?” and “why are you using the QFT in this lesson?” The goal is to provide you with a space, and some targeted questions, to guide you through the process, but ultimately all the thinking and planning is your own. When you’re finished you’ll have a workable lesson plan that you can use immediately. You’ll receive an email with this lesson plan so you can access it whenever you need it.
Give these questions serious thought. If you’re using the QFT simply to spark interest and engagement, that’s totally fine. We think it’s a good tool for that. However, articulating a very specific goal can be useful. A high school biology teacher, for instance, may use the QFT at the end of a unit covering genetics and microorganisms to help students synthesize what they’ve learned before moving onto the theory of evolution. Or, an elementary school teacher may want students to develop questions at the end of the unit for a research paper or experiment. Sometimes, a teacher may be in the middle of a unit and wondering, before moving ahead, what students understand well and what they may still be grappling with. For this purpose, the QFT may be used as a formative assessment. The more specific your goals, the better.
The second half of the planning tool helps you brainstorm Question Focus (QFocus) ideas, consider how students might prioritize their questions, and conceptualize next steps.
A key component here involves developing “prioritization instructions” – instructions for how students will prioritize the questions from their newly developed list. These priority questions will be important as students move forward with the lesson. You, the educator, determine how students will use their questions – whether it’s for a research project about a specific topic, an essay assignment, a group presentation or something else.
For instance, if you’re interested in having students use their questions for research, the prioritization instructions may be to, “choose three questions that will help guide your research.” For an experiment, a prioritization instruction could be to, “choose three testable questions you’d like to explore further.” There are several teaching decisions to consider, and this can help inform how you adapt the QFT to best suit your lesson.
Give it a try
At the end of the process, you’ll have given focused thought to your teaching and learning objectives, your in-class activity, and the next steps students will take.
In addition to providing such space to design a QFT lesson, the planning tool will help you identify and make adjustments to best support teaching and learning in your classroom. Sign up or log in to the RQI Educator Network and access the planning tool here.
We hope this resource helps you move from planning to implementation, and we would love to hear from you if you use the QFT in your classroom. In addition to the RQI Educator Network, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Let us know how it goes!