The post The Question > The Answer: A Discussion of the QFT in Math from the Right Question Institute Archives appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>Much of Cantor’s work, which founded set theory and the concept of transfinite numbers, involved asking questions—why is infinity mathematically unknowable? Is there a way to define infinity? What is a number really? What if infinite numbers do “exist” and can be expressed in a mathematical form?—questions that radically challenged long-held conceptions of what could and could not be understood through numbers and calculations. Cantor was roundly criticized for his work from many quarters throughout most of his life, perhaps none more vehemently than Leopold Kronecker, Cantor’s former college professor at the University of Berlin.

Today, Cantor’s work is widely respected, and more and more math educators recognize the central role curiosity plays in mathematics and are finding ways to deliberately teach students how to ask and use their own questions to learn math.

As we were researching and compiling resources to support math educators in tailoring the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to their classrooms, we stumbled upon this exchange (below) between STEM teachers on a 2015 discussion board. One educator asks a question that we hear often at the Right Question Institute: “at the end of the day what types of math questions get answered and what math actually gets learned? Are [students]…able to generate questions about a specific area of math that actually allows the student to learn – math?”

What follows is a fascinating exchange between educators, wrestling with how best to apply and adapt the QFT to the unique demands of math instruction.

Hi All,

I am new to the group. I teach and facilitate discussion among mechanical engineers trying to use their math and engineering skills to help improve indoor air quality and human comfort in buildings. However, I am fascinated by this process and have used it now in two of my workshops very successfully on very broad problem statements. I am reading as many of the forum posts as possible to try and improve my QFT problem statement formulation skills to pose very specific problems to my engineers for them to use to generate questions around. I am not trying to play devil’s advocate here with this question – so I apologize in advance if that seems like what I am doing. Here is my question to you all. At the end of the day what types of math questions get answered and what math actually gets learned. Are you able to generate problems that generate questions about a specific area of math that actually allows the student to learn – math?

Again, apologize if this is a naive question.

I don’t think that the question is naive. I have used the QFocus in two ways that I think ultimately generated math learning. The first time I used it this year was in connection with a project to understand student attitudes toward homework. I told students that we were going to design a survey to give to students about their attitudes toward homework, and also to collect data on how much homework students actually had. My QFocus was “Homework is an important part of learning.”

After the questions were generated, students thought about questions they could ask and put together a survey. They then had to take a subset of the data and present a result of their choosing. They had to use some kind of graph (scatter plot, bar chart, etc.) and a narrative describing what they found. They also learned about how to ask questions in a survey, and what happens when questions are ambiguous. The got some experience analyzing their own and others’ data, and thinking critically about its accuracy and meaning.

When I used Dan Meyer’s “Ditch Diggers” three-act problem as a QFocus I was able to tell a lot about student learning. There were many ways of solving the problem and I could get some sense of student understanding by the level of sophistication of their approach. (Did they use systems of equations, slope, a table? How did they use this to answer the question?) In that case I thought that there were several solid lessons learned by the students in this project.

I am still confused. I do not see a concrete example of how this could be used for a very technical problem such as a specific math or science example. I could see where it may be useful if you had already taught a group of students the fundamentals of math – whatever they may be (adding, subtraction, multiplication, algebra, etc) and then pose a Qfocus and see what types of math the students determine is appropriate to use to solve the problem. For example the students may ask – How can I use math to estimate the number of pieces of candy in a large jar? What types of equations could be used to solve this problem? Etc, then do research on the specific math techniques and equations and learn to apply them. I haven’t seen those types of specific examples here – and the example above uses a Question to start the project off – not a Qfocus statement or challenge.

This is a rather long response. I hope that I understand your question, and that the response is helpful. But if it’s not, I don’t mind if you ask again or in a different way.

I use the technique in my 8th grade classroom. Certainly the level of problem is very different from the level of the students you teach, but I think that these may give you some ideas.

In the Ditch Digger’s problem, the Q-Focus was really the little movie that presented the situation. I supposed I could used statements like “find the math problem,” or “write a math problem for this situation” instead of a question “what is the math problem?” If you haven’t seen this problem (or any of Dan Meyer’s three-act problems, these pages are worth a visit:

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=330579 – (you’ll find a link to the ditch digger’s problem here; also look for pyramid of pennies)

http://blog.mrmeyer.com/category/3acts/ – (for the latest three-act problems)

The idea behind the three-act problems is that you see a math problem without any of the information necessary to solve it. The first thing students need to do is define the problem, estimate a solution, and then make a list of the specific information that would help them solve it. Then the teacher provides information as appropriate, and the students begin their work. It’s likely that when you see how these problems work you’ll get some ideas on how to use them in conjunction with a QFT.

Here is an example problem that you could use a QFT for:

First, assign this problem and ask students to solve it any way they can: What number leaves a remainder of 4 when divided by 7, 5 when divided by 8, and 6 when divided by 9?

At the 7/8 grade level, most students will use brute force to solve this.

Some may notice that the answer (501) is close to 504 = 7 * 8 * 9.

After students have solved this problem, the Q-Focus could be “questions that this problem brings to mind.” Some questions that might be;

Is there an easier way to solve the problem?

If I use numbers other than 7, 8 and 9, will the easy way work?

Is there anything special about the remainders (4, 5 and 6) in relation to 7, 8 and 9?

Can I find a method that works for any three numbers and any three remainders?

Students could use these questions for further study.

Another example:

I get certificates from Macy’s all the time. I often get a mailing that includes one card that offers 15% off on a purchase, another that offers 20% off on one item, and another that offers $25 on purchases over $100. Take a picture of those three as your Q-Focus. Students may ask:

- Which one should I use?
- Which one is the best deal?
- If I spent over $100, which certificate should I use?
- how do I figure out which certificate to use?
- Why is there a $100 minimum on the $25 certificate?
- Any of these questions could be turned into a mini-research project or a problem of the week.

Another example:

Take a picture of a high rise building or a brick-face apartment, or one of the pyramids in Egypt. Let that picture along with “write a math problem” be the Q-Focus. Students may generate questions such as

- how many bricks were used to build the building?
- how high is the building
- how wide is the building?
- how many windows are there?
- what is the surface area of the building?
- how much does the building weigh?
- what is the volume of the building?
- what is the capacity of the building (how many people could work there)?
- how many parking spaces will be needed?
- If I drop a penny from the top of the building, will it crack the sidewalk?

I know very little about your field, so my attempt at a relevant problem may be a bit lame, but it may also give you ideas:

Take a picture of an office, or office building, and state that the building manager has reported an air quality issue, and frame the issue to relate to the topic you want to introduce. I could imagine that students would have questions around

- what size is the building
- what kind of ventilation system is there
- what is the nature of the problem, etc.
- what tests will help verify the problem
- what are the design constraints
- how much money is reasonable to spend on the problem

I hope this helps.

You are spot on. This is the best, most concrete answer I’ve seen on how to use this technique. Your examples could apply to students of all ages – modified as appropriate for the age group of course. Thank you for taking the time to formulate your reply so well. A light came on for me. Asking the students to formulate questions for real world problems is the key. The fundamentals needed to actually solve the problems or questions they come up with can either be supplied or left up to them to find through research. Thank you again.

Want to see other ways the QFT can be used in math classrooms? Click here to download k-12 math classroom examples.

The post The Question > The Answer: A Discussion of the QFT in Math from the Right Question Institute Archives appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>The post Remixing the Question Formulation Technique: Four Explorations and Revelations appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>As a teacher-librarian, part of my responsibility is to support classroom instruction and pedagogy. In my initial musings of how to apply the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) in a library setting, I saw it as a means to involve myself in the question development portion of the research process. After taking RQI’s online course hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions: Best Practices in the Question Formulation Technique,” I noticed that I had limited my application of the QFT only to my immediate setting. I realize now that the QFT has more flexibility. Through watching the instructional videos and reading my cohort’s posts on discussion boards throughout the module, I learned the importance and value of remixing the QFT to keep students engaged with questioning and to open up fresh opportunities for questions to emerge even in informal, unexpected moments. When I say “remixing,” I’m referring to how the QFT can be differentiated according to audience, groupings, purpose, and learning goal.

Since the end of the online module, I’ve been experimenting exploring 4 “remixes” to best serve the teachers and students I work with:

**1)The QFT for Professional Development–**Sharing the QFT with coworkers serves two important goals: 1) To encourage the faculty to ask questions in order to improve campus culture and instruction and 2) To model the strategy so that teachers can apply it in their own classrooms. As the educators, we serve as models for the students from how we speak and dress to how we carry ourselves in relation to the expectations we set for students. If we expect students to ask questions in the classroom, then teachers should also be willing to pose questions in their professional learning contexts such as staff, department and board meetings. Teachers easily direct questions to students, but often hesitate to ask questions of their colleagues or superiors. I have found that the QFT helps teachers make meaning of new protocols, programs, or other new systems introduced to a school. Additionally, when introducing the QFT as a classroom inquiry strategy with teachers as the students, the teachers feel the power of the discussion and metacognition elements the QFT encompasses. As my site, Oxnard High School (OHS), enters a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation year, I would like to try a QFT addressing the major areas of competency–organization, curriculum, instruction, assessment & accountability, and school culture–that WASC requires schools to address. Teachers using questioning is not only part of instruction, but also part of the staff culture.

**2)The QFT, Individually**: Once students (or staff) have familiarity with the QFT process, they can tackle the QFT on their own. Ideally, after students gain plenty of practice, students will naturally create, evaluate, and prioritize questions on their own.

This school year, I worked with a group of 10th grade students who, as 9th graders, experienced the QFT at least five times. One teacher in the Harvard online course had mentioned he assigned a QFT for homework. When I heard this, I thought, “Of course–this makes total sense!” The sophomore teacher and I decided to give this individualized approach a shot. Students used their “weakest” set of research notes on *Othello *as their QFocus. I projected the QFT rules and they began creating questions, individually. This really forced them to evaluate their own research and identify any gaps. The sophomores went through all steps of the QFT, including converting questions and prioritizing questions, individually. Upon completion of prioritizing their questions, students gathered with their original, research groups and shared their priority questions and justifications. Running the QFT in this individualized manner, allowed for the quieter students–the introverts–to focus without fear of feeling judged by the group. Many expressed how they felt they could concentrate more, while others missed having more discussion. I love how the QFT teaches the instructor about how his/her students learn.

Students were able to see gaps in their research and many students found that they knew more than they realized. Feedback from the students included:

- “QFT has taught me that I am an observation learner. I see a lot of details. It has also taught me that I can make solid connections on the fly.”
- “QFT taught me that when researching a topic I should start with questions for myself so it can be easier to find what I’m looking for.”
- “I learned that I actually understand the material more than I think I do. Also, I took more and effective notes this time compared to last time.”
- “The QFT helped me find the most important questions that I need to include the answer to in my upcoming presentation. It taught me that all questions are acceptable no matter if it’s vague and hard to answer (there is not only 1 correct answer for this type of Q). I feel like the questions help me see if my research is on topic and can answer the basic questions.”

3) ** Even More Choice and Voice**: A trait of the QFT, in and of itself, is that it encourages students to express themselves by identifying their personal curiosities regarding a topic. Throughout the Harvard course, this trait became even more apparent, especially when student reflections revealed students’ newfound confidence in learning and asking questions.

To capitalize on the confidence effect of the QFT, I wanted my Library Science students to exercise choice and voice through the QFT in order to gain input on library services. In Library Science, a college-prep elective for upperclassmen, students assist with the overall operation of the library (customer service and shelving), practice information literacy and critical thinking skills, and help with library advocacy and marketing. The Library Science students first conducted a SWOT analysis, an assessment of the OHS Library’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The SWOT analysis then became their QFocus. In an effort to provide more choice and voice, I modified the QFocus so that students could choose to direct their attention to an area of the SWOT analysis that interested them most. They each chose one of the following QFoci: one aspect of the SWOT analysis; converting weaknesses to strengths; turning threats into opportunities; or looking at weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Giving personal choice not only allowed students to focus on an element of the SWOT analysis that spoke to him/her, but also generated a helpful range of questions that touched on multiple aspects of the SWOT analysis. I was surprised to see that each of my classes went in very different directions. For example, one group focused heavily on advertising and raised questions about how the library communicates events and services. Another group focused on the patrons and how they do not follow library policies. From there, this same group asked questions about library policies and how they could be modified. Students expressed that they learned more about what the library does and they want to make sure students know about all the services the library has to offer. Other reflection highlights include:

- “The QFT makes us feel open to new improvement and growth in the library. With room to grow, we believe that the we can use our strengths to help the opportunities in the future.”
- “The QFT process helped me connect with my peers in a way I don’t normally do.”
- “The QFT made me feel like there is a lot to learn from other people’s opinions and reasoning. Working with others is better than working with yourself alone.”
- “This made me feel like I need to start taking better notes since this gave me more ideas.”

**4) Playing with Pacing: **Depending on time, teaching and learning objectives, and the needs of the particular group a teacher is working with, breaking the QFT into various segments allows for a teacher to tailor the QFT and address areas of the strategy that may need more focus. In the online course, I learned that it’s okay to adjust the pace of the QFT. There’s freedom in the process to slow down to account for areas that may require a more detailed explanation or more thorough practice or speed up by condensing steps depending on your objectives and students’ familiarity.

I recently tried condensing the QFT with a group of 9th graders who were giving presentations on social justice issues that they had researched. Rather than having students take notes during the presentations, I asked students to write down questions. I went over the QFT rules and projected them. After each presentation, students posed their questions to the presenting group and the group responded. By having students record their questions during the presentation, students processed information deeply, at their own pace, listened attentively for what they were curious about, and were held accountable for their participation. It was very exciting to watch the students learn from each other. Any question that couldn’t be answered by the group, I, along with the classroom teacher, did our best to satisfy the students’ curiosity. Or, we encouraged more research!

Because of our objectives for this specific lesson (to have students listen actively, quickly produce a few authentic questions about each social justice topic, and engage in rich discussion with students responsible for teaching each topic all in one library period), we decided that categorizing questions as open or closed and strategizing on next steps to take with their questions, wasn’t essential to this particular lesson. Although we didn’t complete the whole QFT, students still completed a reflection regarding their preference to taking notes or asking questions. Here’s what students said:

- “I felt like I learned more because I could ask the group what I was wondering.”
- “Writing questions is better because I was able to understand more.”
- “I wish we got to ask questions more often. I felt smarter.”

**Conclusion**

With any teaching strategy, a teacher must make it his/her own, to find a way to make the strategy seamless and meaningful for their students. The online module really helped me discover new approaches and applications of the QFT. When you remix the QFT, you can use the QFT or questions more often, and keep the process fresh for the students. I find that remixing the QFT also highlights the importance of pre-determining how you might use the questions students produce and opens up some new possible applications. If you understand the process and if you understand how to remix it, you can tailor your design of the QFT effectively for a specific application of students’ questions. As I move forward in my QFT practice, I hope to communicate more with the classroom teacher(s) to determine the application of the questions so that both teachers and students can see their questions put to good use.

The Harvard course gave me the courage to experiment with remixing the QFT so that I may broaden my reach beyond the library setting. It’s important to me to honor what students want to know, not just what they know. Experimenting with the QFT and finding new applications and contexts for student questions also stemmed from a larger realization about honoring questioning by not limiting it to a time constraint (ie. one class period) Through remixing the QFT, you affirm that questioning should not be limited to a specific time frame because, ultimately, students should be questioning throughout their lives.

**Jennifer Brickey** is the Teacher-Librarian at Oxnard High School. Eight years prior to transitioning to the library position, Jennifer taught a range of English courses at OHS including remedial reading and honors. Since beginning her teaching career, Jennifer has earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Pepperdine University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. She prides herself as an educational leader on campus who strives to improve her craft through exploration and application of new teaching strategies and methods. She also regularly designs and facilitates professional development workshops at her school and district. As a South Coast Writing Project Fellow (2011) and an educator rooted in the power of the written word, Jennifer commits herself to the advocacy of literacy, inquiry, and the literary arts. Jennifer has transformed the OHS Library into a cultural hub for the school where students pursue their passions, interests, and curiosities. Find Jennifer on Twitter @Mrs.Brickey or @OHSLibuzzy.

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]]>The post Coaching Through Questions: An Instructional Coach’s Experience with the QFT appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>When students ask their own questions, it sparks curiosity, independence, and self-confidence, cultivating students’ ownership over their own learning. This is a shift that just makes sense. So how does an instructional coach, like myself, create this shift and promote curious conversations in the classroom?

At our school, asking and answering questions is an essential standard for all grades and there is a need to promote conversations between students, especially our English Learners population. At the end of the 2017 school year our team of administrators and Site Instructional Coaches went on what we call “instructional rounds,” we gathered data on what we observed in classrooms, noted the types of questions students were being asked, the opportunities for students to ask their own questions and how engaged students were in conversations. In most cases, we found that teachers were asking most of the questions and at times, even answering their own questions. We needed to find a way to not only engage students in productive conversations, but also equip students with skills to form a variety of questions in this discourse. We needed a shift.

Based on data gathered about student learning from our Instructional Rounds, the team found that more than 50% of our students were minimally engaged in the learning process. Our teachers are working diligently to increase student engagement through collaborative conversations and critical thinking. QFT is helping us to address both of these areas.

–Cynthia Coello, Zimmerman Elementary Principal

**CUSD: District Collaboration**

When district personnel and I collaborated at the Question Formulation Technique professional development workshop in California, it sparked conversation about how the QFT could simultaneously be productive at elementary, middle and high school classrooms *and* provide Professional Learning for Educators (PLE). Instructional coaches went back to their sites at the elementary, middle and high school levels, and began to introduce teachers to this new powerful tool for students asking questions. The district personnel immediately implemented the QFT when they facilitated Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) meetings at different school sites, using school data as the QFocus. Because ILT teachers at other school sites marveled at this technique and integrated it into their classrooms, our ILT at Zimmerman Elementary felt validated and supported in using the QFT. Additionally, it was effective to have alignment within the district; there was a collaborative effort in using the QFT for discourse, not just at the student level but also for professional learning at the district level.

**Zimmerman Elementary: A Schoolwide Approach**

As this work was happening around the district, I set out to bring the QFT back to my colleagues at Zimmerman Elementary school. To introduce the strategy, I collaborated one on one with the first five teachers interested in learning the QFT. My principal was very supportive and allowed me to schedule an all day substitute teacher to cover classrooms while we collaborated.

We began our meetings with having each teacher become a member of the Educator Network on the Right Question Institute website so they can be exposed to the forums and resources available. Each teacher designed their lesson using a standard PowerPoint, but then adapted it for their individual objectives and content areas. Some used Google Slides for students to type their questions and some chose to use Flip Grid to record their student’s reflections. After planning the QFT, I modeled the first lesson using a co-teaching structure. After each lesson, the teacher and I debriefed on what went well and what needed some fine tuning. This setup allowed teachers to observe the QFT in action without having to simultaneously worry about implementing it. Teachers saw that the QFT gave students an opportunity to think for themselves and collaborate. Previously, teachers had noticed that students were trapped in their own way of thinking but through the QFT process, students were able to listen to others ask questions and hear different perspectives.

The QFT process is helping my students to become more aware of the skills needed to ask the right questions when analyzing a topic. I’m beginning to see an increase in my students abilities to ask open-ended questions. These types of questions are great for group discussions as they require explanation and elaboration.

–Fred Aiello, Fifth Grade

QFT impacts my teaching because it allows me to see where my students may have gaps in their understanding or learning. Using QFT allows me to see where to focus my lessons and allows me to get a grasp of the students knowledge to see what they need to understand better.

–Celia Salazar, Third Grade

**Teacher Buy In**

All people have a tendency to grapple with change. To me, one of key levers in implementing a school wide change like this is empowering teachers by inviting them to be a part of the PLE and present as a team. That’s how we approached the professional learning about the QFT.

Three of the pioneer teachers who had implemented the QFT and were from different grade levels, hosted a forum for teachers to ask questions about the successes and challenges of the QFT. I showed videos of our own students at Zimmerman engaging with the QFT so other teachers can see what the QFT accomplishes with our students in our classrooms. During this PLE, teachers also went through the QFT process, so they themselves could experience what the students experience. All of the above were intentional measures taken to help teachers feel comfortable with this change. After the PLE, I emailed teachers for feedback on how they perceived this technique would benefit their students and provided support for teachers who expressed interest in implementing the QFT. By identifying some QFT cheerleaders, we were able to create excitement amongst grade-level teams about this technique and helped spread it throughout the campus.

I made the decision to share QFT with my grade level because of the impact it had on my teaching and students. I felt if I relayed this message to other teachers it would empower them to recognize the importance of students asking questions. Informing more teachers about QFT will create more classrooms where students are having conversations that include questioning instead of us always asking questions.

–Delia Schornack, Second Grade

**Scaffolds and Modifications**

As a “trial” run, I focused on the entire Kindergarten team to use the technique as a starting point for students to become familiar with the process. Initially, kindergarteners were giving statements, not asking questions. We discovered that the QFT required some adaptations for the younger grade levels. We used various scaffolds like providing kindergarteners with question starters, “Who, what, where, when, why_____?” Within a few uses of the QFT, we saw a difference in students’ language in posing questions. Furthermore, we observed an improvement in the quality of their questions. Through consistency, we recognized an evolution in their question asking abilities and noticed the nuances in their questions.

One thing I have noticed in my students is that they are now looking deeper at the whole picture in general to formulate their questions and not just stating the obvious questions. They are looking deeper and trying to come up with more detailed questions.

–Sandra Harworth, Kindergarten

A second challenge teachers noticed were students having difficulty in categorizing and converting open and closed ended questions. We decided that students needed an introduction to these types of questions before implementing a QFT lesson. Through a collaborative effort to problem solve, one teacher created a powerpoint to instruct students on these types of questions and incorporated games to excite students. This powerpoint was then shared with other teachers as a pre-lesson before the initial QFT lesson. Students began to make interesting observations. Students noticed, in most cases, if they deleted the first question word in an open ended question it could become a closed ended question. Teachers noticed a substantial change with not just the decrease in time in regarding open and closed identification and conversion, but their students had mastered open and closed questions and set the students and teachers on this trajectory to move forward with curiosity empowerment.

Differentiating between open and closed questions was a bit of a challenge at first. I created powerpoints to have them practice. Not only did they love practicing, but it made the QFT process easier for them. I loved seeing them collaborate with their groups and put a lot of effort into their questions. My students learned the importance of asking questions and how it can be applied in different subject areas.

–Delia Schornack, Second Grade

**A Waste of Time?**

Teachers had concerns that the QFT took time away from their daily routine. I reminded them like with anything else, with consistency and practice, time will actually be saved because they will notice their teaching will become more focused based on students’ questions. Teachers will not be spending a lot of time teaching what students already know, but what they are interested in learning. It can also simultaneously help teachers understand what students are thinking and easily align to standards. Consequently, using the QFT is a tangible way of engaging in the school’s focal point and mission of prioritizing students asking questions.

The critical thinking the students are doing and the questions they are producing definitely outweigh the time it takes to set up this process in your classroom.

–Mayra Ibarra, Sixth Grade Teacher

As an instructional coach it is my role to support instruction. However, the best support I can provide teachers is to allow them to be a part of the decision making and the learning. One reason I liked using the QFT in the PLE is it helped me to accomplish that. Fostering conversations filled with curiosity is now happening not only between our students but also between teachers and instructional coaches.

**Monique Almendarez** is an instructional coach at Zimmerman Elementary in California. She provides instructional delivery assistance and support to teachers including co-planning, co-teaching, and demonstrating lessons. She also meets with teachers on a regular basis to select, diagnose, instruct, assess, and monitor students. Monique also provides Professional Learning Experiences as well as facilitates school-wide events.

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]]>The post Join us for a Right Question Twitter QFTChat on Thursday, May 24 2018 appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>In the spirit of the QFT, rather than following the traditional Twitter chat format, we will pose several statements throughout the hour about different aspects of QFT design and facilitation.

We will first invite all chat participants to pose any questions they have about the statement we tweet, and then participants can share their additional thoughts, comments, or questions. Use #QFTChat to view other participants’ questions, build off of them, or even answer them.

Some of the best lessons we have learned at the Right Question Institute have come from the field of educators who have identified common challenges in the classroom and developed innovative solutions so they can better teach *all *students to ask their own questions. We believe that this statement and question/answer format will crowdsource the wisdom of educators while also advancing a collaborative discussion.

We look forward to learning from you all on May 24th! Those new to Twitter and experienced alike are welcome. If you are new to Twitter chats peruse this page ahead of the conversation, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @RightQuestion.

Andrew Minigan (@AndrewRQI)

& John Sessler (@JB_Sessler**)**

Thursday, May 24, 2018

8pm ET/5pm PT

@RightQuestion hosts: @AndrewRQI & @JB_Sessler

**8:00pm**Welcome! Introduce yourself and share a book you’ve recently read or are excited to dig into this summer. Join the chat by following #QFTChat, @RightQuestion, @AndrewRQI, & @JB_Sessler. #QFTChat

**8:01pm **As a reminder, in the spirit of the QFT, rather than following the traditional Twitter chat format, we will pose several statements throughout the hour that identify different aspects of QFT design and facilitation. #QFTChat

**8:01pm **We first invite you to pose any questions you have about the statement we tweet, then you can share your additional thoughts, comments, or questions. Peruse #QFTChat to view other participants’ questions, build off of them, or even answer them.

**8:05pm **Over the course of the hour, we will pose 7 statements that identify different aspects of QFT design and facilitation. First, respond with a question (Q1), and then share additional insights, ideas, thoughts, or even lessons learned. #QFTChat

**8:06pm **1: Students making best use of their questions as the lesson moves into next steps. #QFTChat

**8:13pm **2: Adapting the QFT for different student populations, such as students with IEPs or English Language Learners. #QFTChat

**8:20pm **3: Students aren’t asking questions about the QFocus as I had planned. #QFTChat

**8:27pm **4: Aligning the QFT with standards. #QFTChat

**8:35pm **5: Developing prioritization instructions to lend themselves to next steps. #QFTChat

**8:43pm** 6: Changing or adapting my QFT plans during or after the QFT because of how the experience unfolded. #QFTChat

**8:51pm **7: There’s not enough time to facilitate the QFT. #QFTChat

**8:59pm** Thank you for joining us this evening! Many of the best lessons we’ve learned have come from you, the educators, who have identified common challenges in the classroom and developed innovative solutions, so they can better teach *all *students to ask their own questions. #QFTChat

**8:59pm **We hope to stay connected, and we look forward to the lessons still to come! #QFTChat

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]]>The post Exploring Four Words for “Question” in Japanese appeared first on Right Question Institute.

]]>by Tomoko Ouchi

**Not all questions are the same**

I was born, raised and educated in Japan, and as The Right Question Institute’s international program specialist, I helped prepare and translate material for seminars RQI conducted in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima last March.

As I did this work I began to feel distinctly alarmed about one small but fundamental translation issue. A very important word in the Question Formulation Technique has no straightforward counterpart in Japanese. That word is “question.” In Japanese it doesn’t have a perfect fit.

Translation is not easy, and it cannot always be perfect. Ultimately, while RQI Co-Director Dan Rothstein and I were in Japan, we used the word from the translated version of *Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions*, which had become a best-selling education title in my home country.

However, in the back of my mind this translation conflict has never gone away. How do you articulate the different kinds of questions the QFT generates in the nuances of another language? How might inaccurate translation undermine the power and sophistication of this process? What type of questions and answers are we really talking about at the beginning, middle, and end of the QFT process, and are they all the same kind?

**Japanese words for question**

In Japanese, there are four words that mean “question.” They have different implied meanings, and the way each is used is different.

Here are the definitions of the four words, according to one Japanese dictionary, Reikai Shougaku Kokugo Jiten:

*質問ーShitsumon*: Questions to ask someone about what you do not know.*問いーToi*: Shitsumon, exam questions (both simple and complicated), research questions.*疑問ーGimon*: Toi, Something doubtful, something you do not know.*発問ーHatsumon:*The act of asking questions. Teachers’ questions in the field of education.

As you can see, the entries for the words *shitsumon*, *toi* and *gimon* are somewhat conflated. *Shitsumon* is offered as a synonym for *toi*. *Toi* is presented as a synonym for *gimon*. However, these transitive properties are not extended to *gimon* and *shitsumon*, which are treated as distinct.

If this seems confusing, you’re not alone. As a native speaker, I know all these words have different meanings, nuances and connotations that are not easily expressed in English. I checked two other language dictionaries at home, but they did not help.

You may not read Japanese, but you can probably see all those words have the same *kanji *(Chinese character): 問.

This *kanji *– 問 – means “question.” But in Japanese, 問 alone is not a word. It must be used in combination with something else – another *kanji* of Chinese origin, or *hiragana*, which are letters of Japanese origin. You can see these combinations of characters in the definitions above. When 問 is used in a verbal form, by combining it with *hiragana*, it means “ask.”

In addition to searching language dictionaries, I researched numerous book titles across academic, education and business fields, all with the word “question” in them, and I scrutinized these titles using my own mother-tongue understanding of the inferential, unspoken nuances of the Japanese language.

In doing so, I reached the conclusion that the four words for question can be distinguished as follows:

*質問ーShitsumon:*Questions you ask someone so that they will provide an answer. This includes questions in a questionnaire, and it’s the word commonly used after a talk or lecture, when the audience is asked, “Do you have any questions?” Normally the person who asks is different from the person who answers. By using this word, people generally assume there are immediate answers.*問いーToi:*Questions to answer on your own by thinking, exploring and investigating. It implies that the people contemplating the questions will explore answers by themselves. Exam questions and research questions are examples of*toi*.*疑問ーGimon:*Questions when you wonder about something, often without the expectation of an answer. Examples of*gimon*might include, “Why is the sky blue?” “Are there aliens?” “Why does the alphabet have 26 letters?”*発問ーHatsumon:*Questions that teachers, specifically, raise to stimulate student thinking. They can include*shitsumon-*,*toi-*and*gimon-*style questions, depending on context, the type of question and how it is raised.

There is a lot of nuance among these words. While* hatsumon *has a clear, specific meaning, *shitsumon*, *toi* and *gimon *can sometimes overlap, depending on context.

**Using different question types with the QFT**

The purpose of the Question Formulation Technique is for students to generate their own questions – questions that encourage deep thinking, investigation and exploration – so that students have more ownership of their own learning.

So, how do these different Japanese words for “question,” each with their own distinct and nuanced meanings, interact with the Question Formulation Technique?

At first glance, *shitsumon–*style questions do not seem appropriate for the QFT since they imply students do not have the ownership of the questions. However, great questions often derive from “easy” questions, and you wouldn’t want to discourage students from asking questions that have immediate answers.

Sometimes seemingly easy questions reveal assumptions we unconsciously have, and they can lead to essential questions. So, I wouldn’t want to entirely rule out *shitsumon* from the QFT process. I think this is why *shitsumon *was the word used in the Japanese translation of *Make Just One Change*.

In the Japanese language, *gimon* implies questions that, sometimes, are not articulated explicitly or even verbalized, so *gimon* are, more often than not, left unexplored. The four rules of the QFT deliberately enable students to express and verbalize the types of questions that would be considered *gimon*. Even when *gimon*-type questions are too vague they could stimulate other questions, and therefore they can be useful and valuable.

The first step of the QFT is to generate questions freely, without restrictions, judgment or commentary. If a teacher asked me to generate *toi*, I might not be able to produce many questions since *toi *sounds very sophisticated, and I would think I must produce difficult, deep questions. So, during the first step of the QFT, asking students to produce questions using the words* shitsumon* or *gimon *could be most appropriate in order to give students the freedom to ask different type of questions.

Through the later stages of the QFT process, when students change the form of questions between closed-ended and open-ended questions and prioritize questions, *shitsumon- *and *gimon*-style questions are transformed into deeper questions. In other words, they become *toi*: questions to be explored by students.

Ultimately, I realized the type of questions generated and students’ relationship to these questions change as the QFT proceeds. Of course, this is true whether students are speaking English or Japanese, but in the context the Japanese language, it highlights the importance of going all the way through each step of the QFT process. If anything, the “eureka” moment many students feel when doing the QFT may be amplified in a Japanese setting due to the different associations Japanese students have with different types of questions.

All types of questions are helpful for developing divergent thinking in the first stage of the QFT: generating questions. In fact, it may be useful and less intimidating to give students permission to generate *shitsumon*–* or gimon*-style questions. Later, during the convergent-thinking phase of the QFT – prioritizing, refining and transforming questions – it becomes more accurate to use the word *toi* to indicate the sophistication of the questions and the students’ ownership of them.

When introducing the Question Formulation Technique to Japanese educators, it is helpful to be clear about the range of different question-types developed throughout the QFT process. This shows the value of the QFT process in secondary or higher education settings, where teachers want their students to be challenged with rigorous intellectual work.

As I reflected on what I learned from exploring this topic, I came to a fuller appreciation of how any one word is never a perfect fit in translation. I feel it’s very convenient the English language has one comprehensive word – “question” – for all types inquiry generated through the QFT.

**The outlier: hatsumon, or teachers’ questions**

What about that other word for question in Japanese: *hatsumon*, which refers to teachers’ questions? You will note in the diagram above that *hatsumon* are separated from the other types of questions.

Although *hatsumon* are not included in the QFT process, the skill that goes into creating and developing *hatsumon* has attracted the attention of many educators in Japan. Do *hatsumon* have any relationship with other types of questions in Japanese? Why are *hatsumon* considered important in today’s system of education in Japan? Why does the Japanese language have its own word for teachers’ questions?

In this section, I discuss the development of the word *hatsumon* and how it came to be used for teaching, followed by some thoughts about the role of *hatsumon *in the classroom.

One Japanese education encyclopedia, Shin Kyoiku-gaku Daijiten, suggests the word *hatsumon* existed by the end of the 19th century. It was originally used to distinguish teachers’ questions from students’ questions. One scholar, Hisaki Toyoda, writing in 1988, describes how the word *hatsumon *has developed over the past centuries:

In the Edo Era (1603-1868), children studied at temple in Japan. There, children learned on their own by reading and individually asking their teachers questions, and teachers would answer them. When the Meiji revolution occurred and the modern school system was established in 1872, there was an urgent need to teach a whole class by a limited number of both skilled and unskilled teachers. This transformed the dynamics of learning and questioning in the classroom. Teachers became the primary question-askers whereas students were expected to recite correct answers. At this time, it was practically convenient to distinguish any teachers’ questions from students questions. This is how the word* hatsumon* started being used.

Decades later in the early 1910s, the role of *hatsumon* was reconsidered. *Hatsumon* has become recognized as a means of logical and sophisticated lectures by stimulating students’ thinking. In this way, the word *hatsumon* started having a specific meaning: teachers’ questions which stimulate student curiosity. At this time, *hatsumon* was also given another role: to help students generate their own questions. *Hatsumon *is meant to teach students how to ask questions by working on *hatsumon* since they have not yet developed their question formulation skills. In other words, students learned to ask questions almost through osmosis, by following the model of good teacher questions.

Nowadays, it is widely believed that *hatsumon *should be used to enable students to think deeper, and teachers work on developing better *hatsumon*. According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan, *hatsumon *is defined as “teachers’ questions which require students to go through a rigorous thinking and cognitive process, whereas students can easily get answers for teachers’ *shitsumon* by looking at textbooks or basic information recall.” Also, Shin Kyoiku-gaku Daijiten, defines* hatsumon* as “teachers’ questions to stimulate students’ thinking and encourage students to actively look into materials in accordance with curriculum. It is differentiated from other types of questions, which ask students to answer knowledge.”

However, often overlooked is the other role of *hatsumon*: to teach students how to ask questions through modeling. In classrooms, teachers remain primary question-askers while students answer teachers’ questions. At the same time, many educators believe students need to develop the skill of question formulation as a 21st-century skill. If the purpose of *hatsumon* are really to cultivate students’ ability to ask questions, does it have effective outcomes?

Skills are not developed by just observing others. Students need practice. I’ve seen many classrooms in both United States and Japan full of students asking questions using the QFT. Students do not have enough opportunities or protocols to ask questions freely at school, where typically, answers are given more priority. While *hatsumon* still have a crucial role in the classroom, it has definitely become more and more significant for students to explore and ask their own questions. Why not provide students the opportunity to ask questions on their own? By formulating their own questions, students have more curiosity, which leads to more ownership in learning. This will be suitable for Japan’s new national curriculum guidelines, which advocate for “active learning through the ownership of learning and interaction, collaboration and communication.” Teachers *and* students can become good question-askers, developing a critical skill in this fast-changing world in the 21st century.

**Final thoughts**

As we’ve seen, the Japanese language has four different words for question. In Japanese, *shitsumon, toi* and *gimon* are the types of questions best used in the QFT process, and each has its own way to contribute. I feel confident proposing that the specific Japanese word used during the QFT should be considered according to how the QFT is being utilized – what the teacher’s goals are, who the participants are and what the purpose of questioning is. Moreover, it would be reasonable to use different words to correspond with different steps of the QFT process, because the sophistication of questions increases as students work on them.

While I kept thinking about questioning, I realized that the word for “academic” in Japanese is composed of two *kanji*, 学問. The first *kanji* means “learn” and the second, which you probably recognize by now, means “question.” Our ancestors, generations in the past, knew questioning is the starting point of learning.

When my children recently asked, “What do you do at work, Mom?” I led them through a quick QFT in Japanese at home. At the end of the session, one of my children (my 8-year-old son, who speaks both English and Japanese) commented, “These are questions but not *shitsumon.*” In other words, he articulated the conundrum I’d been struggling with for the past several months. And he proved how ready and capable even young students are to do this type of thinking and questioning.

**References**

Hosoya, Toshio et al. (1990) Shin Kyoiku-gaku Daijiten. （細谷 俊夫/奥田 真丈/河野 重男/今野 喜清ほか編（1990）『新教育学大事典』第一法規出版。）

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/shotou/clarinet/002/003/002/004.htm (Last accessed on 12/18/2017)

Toyoda , Hisaki (1988) “Meiji ki Hatsumon ron no Kenkyu- Jugyo Seiritsu no Genten wo Saguru” (豊田久亀 (1988)『明治期発問論の研究―授業成立の原点を探る』ミネルヴァ書房。)

Tajika, Junichi (2013) Reikai Shougaku Kokugo Jiten, Sanseido. (田近洵一編（2013）『例解小学国語辞典』 第５版、三省堂。)

Shinmura, Izuru (1998), Kojien, 5th Edition, Iwanami Shoten. (新村出編 （1998） 『広辞苑』 第5版 岩波書店。)

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]]>Educators in Japan, as elsewhere, are seeking ways to provide a forward-looking education to the generation of students whose lives and careers will unfold during the heart of 21st century.

The education ministry revises curriculum guidelines every 10 years, and proposed guidelines for the upcoming decade call for “deep learning through proactive efforts and dialogue,” according to the *Japan Times*. The newspaper notes this goal would require teachers “to devise and adapt to new ways of teaching.”

Tomoko Ouchi, international program specialist at The Right Question Institute, provided some additional interpretation, explaining the proposed guidelines seek “student ownership of learning with collaboration and communication among students.”

These priorities may sound familiar to teachers in other countries, including the United States, but the pathway toward achieving these goals can often seem shrouded in fog.

This may help explain why the Japanese translation of *Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions*, is one of the leading education titles in that country – recently a top-15 seller in Amazon’s general pedagogy category.

A teacher in Tokyo remarked ‘the process of the QFT turns on a learning switch’ with students.

The book outlines the Question Formulation Technique, a teaching tool that builds the ability of students to generate and use their own questions – leading to more engagement, curiosity, ownership of learning and equitable classroom experiences along the way.

“We knew the book had been translated into Japanese and into Chinese, but we really had no idea how successful it was,” said Dan Rothstein, co-author of the book and co-director of The Right Question Institute, when he learned about *Make Just One Change’s* top-seller status in Japan.

In part due to the book’s success and to enthusiasm among a handful of Japanese education leaders, Rothstein was invited to Japan in the winter of 2017. To mark the one-year anniversary of that trip, he reflected on the experience and what he learned in Japan.

**Enthusiasm Among Early Adopters**

Ken-ichi Sato, a professor of molecular bioscience at Kyoto Sangyo University, invited Rothstein to Kyoto and Tokyo to present to educators. Rothstein also traveled to Hiroshima for a presentation with the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education and teachers with the Asia Society’s Center for Global Education.

He was struck by the energy and enthusiasm of educators he met. “These were early adopters,” he said. “They were really ready and hungry, and they enjoyed going deeply into the QFT” – the abbreviation for Question Formulation Technique. “All three sessions were brimming with energy and intellectual ferment.”

There is a lot of interest in inquiry-based learning. There’s interest in personalized learning. There’s interest in deeper learning, and teachers often struggle in how you do that, how you implement that.

The enthusiasm is noteworthy given time constraints on teachers in Japan, who assume significant administrative duties in addition to classroom work. When school is in session, “not all schools allow them to take professional development time,” explained Ouchi. “They sometimes don’t have time to look at new pedagogy or new ways to teach.”

The* Japan Times* put it more directly, noting that teachers are “said to be overburdened with desk work and supervising students’ club activities in addition to their classroom duties.”

Finding the time and energy to try new methods can be difficult.

This is not unique to Japan. Around the world “there is a lot of interest in inquiry-based learning. There’s interest in personalized learning. There’s interest in deeper learning, and teachers often struggle in how you do that, how you implement that,” said Rothstein.

It’s another reason some educators in Japan may be drawn to the QFT, which is an easily replicable technique that can be used more-or-less immediately. Among educators he worked with, the mentality was, “Oh, this solves a problem that I see in front of me every day, that students are not asking questions, they’re not engaged,” Rothstein said.

He said it’s “the exact same response that I’ve seen in the States, which is, ‘This is different than the way I traditionally taught. This works really well. It’s simple and easy to implement, and the students really are excited about it.’”

**Gaining Traction in Japan**

In Japan, the shelves in bookstores have a handful of titles outlining different approaches to active and inquiry-based learning, and *Make Just One Change *is one of the featured books. It suggests a receptiveness to new ideas in this area of teaching.

In the United States, “some of the approaches are fairly complicated,” Rothstein said. “Sometimes we enter a space where there’s some saturation of efforts to promote that kind of learning that actually kind of complicate things.”

“It seems that the space was a little more wide open in Japan,” he said.

Educators across the spectrum have experimented widely with the Question Formulation Technique, and many who came to the sessions had a nuanced understanding of the QFT and brought rich examples of how they had used it across different classrooms, disciplines and grade levels, Rothstein said. One participant in the Tokyo training talked about how designing an effective Question Focus (the stimulus for student questioning) requires the discipline and rigor of writing a haiku.

As the person who invited Rothstein to Japan, Sato has blazed new trails with the QFT. One of his roles is director of the Center for Research and Development for Educational Support at Kyoto Sangyo University, and he has developed something called the “hatena-thon,” which in Japanese combines “question mark” and “marathon.” The QFT is at the center of the question marathons. Last summer Sato traveled to the United States to participate in The Right Question Institute’s international conference.

Designing an effective Question Focus (the stimulus for student questioning) requires the discipline and rigor of writing a haiku.

Naoki Iwase, a former associate professor of teacher education at Tokyo Gakugei University, has also been a QFT pioneer. Several of his students attended Rothstein’s seminar in Tokyo, and he is establishing a school that emphasizes student ownership of learning, collaboration, and inquiry and exploration.

Then there are the classroom examples.

Shion Inoue, who teaches at a private high school in Hyogo and previously worked at an International Baccalaureate Programme school in Osaka, has used the QFT with students in a literacy class on the foundations of knowledge – exploring what we know and how we know it.

Another teacher, in Tokyo, “showed me work that students had done looking at controversial topics, global topics, and how they had used the QFT,” Rothstein said. The teacher “was very excited by the depth of discussion and the understanding that it engendered.”

The first educator from Japan to reach out to The Right Question Institute was Kimie Hirano, an English teacher in Osaka. She became part of the core team that organized Rothstein’s seminars in Tokyo and Kyoto and contributed to the excellent translation of the materials used in the sessions.

A fourth-grade teacher in Osaka reported using the QFT in a low-income community, remarking how it provided an opportunity for all students to participate, including those who don’t consider themselves strong students.

Educators in Japan ‘provided evidence of the universal value and relevance of the QFT through their work.’

In the Hiroshima Prefecture, Rothstein was welcomed warmly by Board of Education Superintendent Kuniaki Shimozaki, Deputy Superintendent Ryukichi Sato and Director General Takanori Morofuji. Shimozaki, impressed by Harvard University professor Howard Gardner’s endorsement of *Make Just One Change*, spoke “about his own thoughts about education and the importance of combining both a bottom-up and a top-down effort to improve education,” Rothstein said.

In addition, Rothstein, with facilitation support from his wife, Ana Karchmer, an experienced designer and facilitator of applications of the QFT, provided an in-depth seminar for educators working on a new approach to education as part of the Asia Society’s Global Education Initiative.

Looking back at the experience, Rothstein said, “I was excited by not only the readiness and eagerness to learn more about the QFT, but also about the experiences people already had in implementing the QFT and the very positive results that they saw with their students.”

**Students Value it, Too**

As in the United States, students in Japan who use the QFT seem to appreciate its value.

“An uninteresting field can become interesting by asking questions,” said one student providing feedback about the process.

“I realized that the information I can acquire depends on how I ask questions,” said another.

A teacher in Tokyo remarked “the process of the QFT turns on a ‘learning switch’” with students, and a teacher in Kyoto noted “people’s backgrounds or academic levels do not matter in using the QFT,” which helps involve all students.

“Sometimes you wonder how it is going to translate across language and culture,” said Rothstein, “but what we saw [in Japan] was pretty much what we see here [in the United States].”

“I really appreciated the fact they provided evidence of the universal value and relevance of the QFT through their work, working with a Japanese translation and working in the context of Japanese education,” Rothstein said.

**An Exchange of Ideas**

A strength of the Question Formulation Technique is how it has been freely shared through a grassroots, decentralized process that has led to widespread adoption. While The Right Question Institute is home base for the QFT – a center of research and advocacy in connection to student questioning as well as a source of resources tied to the QFT – the technique is being used in more than a million classrooms in 130 countries around the globe. Educators in the field regularly find ways to adapt the technique to specific circumstances, and they exchange those ideas with each other and The Right Question Institute.

This exchange of ideas and friendship was another valuable part of the trip, according to Rothstein. In Hiroshima, Shimozaki presented Rothstein and Karchmer with two pieces of calligraphy. One reads “Friendship and goodwill,” the other reads, “Love and dream.”

“After our meeting in the superintendent’s office, we felt a responsibility as Americans to go and spend some time at the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima,” Rothstein said. “It was a very meaningful experience.” Later that night, a number of the educators in the session organized a dinner at a local restaurant off the tourist-path and had a spirited discussion about what they had learned.

Morofuji, the director general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education, was particularly intrigued by an example Rothstein had shared about introducing 5th graders to the study of variables in math. It’s an activity developed by Deirdre Brotherson of Hooksett, New Hampshire (NH). Brotherson first learned to use the QFT from state teachers’ union, the NEA-NH, and her example has now been shared around the world. The director general felt it offers a model way to teach math.

Rothstein, reflecting on the experience, said it “has made me think again about the warmth of the reception and my appreciation to Dr. Sato for inviting me and for the impressive commitment of the educators I met who are eager to innovate and improve the learning experience for their students.”

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