• Teaching + Learning

    • Why is the skill of question formulation so important?

      A good question can spark curiosity and fuel creativity, understanding, and innovation. Question formulation is a vital skill for critical thinking, literacy, and civic engagement in the 21st century. Yet, it is rare that the skill of question formulation is deliberately taught to students. How can we transform teaching and learning and create learning environments so all students can build their own capacity to take greater ownership and develop higher order thinking skills through formulating questions? Read this Education Week post to learn more about why question formulation is an essential skill for today’s learners to develop and hone.

    • What is the Question Formulation Technique (QFT)?

      The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) is a powerful, stepwise, and easy-to-use strategy that educators can facilitate to teach students how to formulate, work with, and use their own questions. Through this process, students become more curious, engaged learners as they:

      • generate their own questions
      • identify different types of questions
      • work with their questions as they change them from one type to another
      • prioritize questions
      • discuss next steps and strategize on how they will us their questions
      • make use of their questions to drive teaching and learning as the lesson or unit progresses

      We recommend you start here if you are new to the QFT.

    • Can the Right Question Institute (RQI) visit my school or district to facilitate professional development (PD)?

      We assess PD requests on a case by case basis. Even if the RQI team cannot ourselves come out for a training, we do our best to connect schools and districts with regional QFT facilitators who are well versed in the QFT. If you are interested in a training, please contact us by using the contact form and select the option “Keynote/ Active Learning Experience Request.”

      Also, three times a year we run an online course in collaboration with Professional Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This course is a great opportunity for you and your colleagues to learn with RQI staff and with educators from around the world.

    • How can I become a QFT trainer?

      We do not currently offer formal QFT training certification. Many educators who attend our events or otherwise learn and use the QFT go on to become a resource on the strategy for their school, district, organization and region. This includes educators with many different job titles, including those serving in PD roles as well as educators who are classroom teachers. Since we provide the QFT under a creative commons license, you are able and encouraged to share the QFT with your colleagues.

      Our materials are available under a Creative Commons Sharealike license. To comply with this license, you must include the following language on all materials you use, share, adapt, or create:

      “Source: The Right Question Institute (RQI). The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) was created by RQI. Visit rightquestion.org for more information and free resources.”

    • How much time do I need to teach the QFT?

      It may take a minimum of 40 to 45 minutes for your students to complete all six steps the first time you introduce the QFT process in your classroom. As your students gain experience using the QFT, you will find that they can run through the process very quickly, in 20 to 30 minutes, even when working independently or in small groups. Check out our timing guide to learn more.

    • How do you address teachers who say they don't have time to do the QFT or that the process takes too long?

      The QFT is not a detour, but rather a shortcut for educators to more efficiently or effectively get to where they are already going with a lesson or unit. Educators can design a QFT to help students to develop thesis statements. Spending more time on their questions and theses at the beginning of a research project can help students improve the quality of their research and writing. By no means is the QFT a silver bullet, nor is it relevant to every lesson you will ever teach. However, with some thoughtful lesson design it can be one technique to support the work you are already doing and one small change you can make in your teaching to provide another opportunity for student-centered learning.

    • Once students have asked their questions, what do they do next?

      There are examples on how to use the QFT at different points in a lesson in this Educational Leadership article and this video. There are many examples across grade levels and subject areas that you can find here, and as well as in this handy document. It is essential that educators conceive how they would like their students to use their questions ahead of time and adjust facilitation instructions to lend to the planned next steps.

    • Aren’t open-ended questions better than closed-ended questions?

      Research answers a question — so once students have generated them, and chosen their priority questions, they can begin their research. Using open-ended questions can generate more ideas for topic-building, open up those big ideas for discussions, or create opportunities to see different perspectives. A distinct benefit to closed-ended questions is that they spur us on to search for facts so that we can develop a context for our topic. Learning benefits differently from both open-ended questions and closed-ended questions, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of questions depending on what you are hoping to learn. Read more here from librarian Connie Williams on the value of close-ended questions. 

    • How can I use the QFT with English Language Learners?

      RQI Director of Professional Learning Sarah Westbrook and RQI interns Erin Kim and Caroline Glaenzer worked on crafting this document which details adaptations. This document was informed and driven by the work of educators in the field who are innovating and tailoring the QFT ingeniously to better support their work.

      English is so different from many languages in how we frame our question sentences. In an ELL class, we can scaffold the QFT process by working together as a class and write them as spoken, finish the content direction of the lesson; and then go back at another time and look at them with an English language lesson in mind. “What does this word order really ask?” or “What are other ways we can ask the same things?” That way you’ve separated the question building process from the language-building process.

      Watch this video to see an example of how a Library Teacher and Instructional Technology Specialist adapted a QFT lesson to work well with their ELL students.

    • What are some best practices for using the QFT with younger students?

      First grade co-teachers Ashleigh Burry and Kristy Mandel write in this blog how they have made the QFT as effective as possible with early learners. This blog paints a comprehensive picture of the QFT in a first grade classroom, and the piece illustrates how the QFT may unfold over the course of a few days in an early elementary context. I quite enjoy this video clip featuring Sheila Varney, a kindergarten teacher from Kentucky where she speaks to her students’ question-asking abilities. Peruse this PDF for additional insight into using the QFT with younger students.

    • What kind of educational technology is necessary for the QFT?

      Typically, the QFT is implemented as a paper-and-pencil technique (or chart paper and marker technique!). There is something powerful about the turn-taking, the co-constructing of questions as students build off one another’s thinking, and the speaking and listening aspect that may not translate to online mediums. As with any adaptation, however, educators should think critically and intentionally about how the adjustments will benefit their lesson, their teaching and student learning.

      One could easily use applications such as Padlet or Google Docs for group question-building, using QFT with paper – small group work with butcher paper, or whole group on the board — keeps the questions alive and in an order that helps the process work smoothly. Read this blog or browse our remote learning resources to easily “make your own” virtual QFT.

    • The QFocus seems to be the most challenging task. Does it take time to get good at it?

      It is helpful to remember that there is no “right” QFocus. Anticipating possible student questions to be generated from a QFocus ahead of time can help check to see if the process might go in a direction we like. Ask colleagues! The RQI website offers a lesson planning workbook that can help with this process. Head to page 5 for help with the QFocus. Check out the classroom examples on RQI’s Teaching + Learning resources page for QFocus ideas.

      The quality of the QFocus depends on the aims and goals of your lesson or unit, how you intend students to use their questions, and whether what you anticipate students will ask about the QFocus is in fact what is elicited. These aspects should all be aligned. The QFocus can be anything — except a question. Keep it simple. Consider using a visual or provocative statement that students can relate to. Many educators have said that the QFocus design becomes easier the more often they use the QFT in the classroom.

    • What about quiet students? Will they feel comfortable asking questions?

      For some students, one of the major takeaways from the QFT is learning that their peers also have intriguing and salient questions to ask. The QFT is an equitable teaching strategy, and the rules and steps create a space that invites even the quieter students to feel comfortable contributing. This is partially because students do not feel the pressure to know everything. Instead, they are given time to think about what they do not yet know. As one student from Newton, Mass., shared, “A lot of times someone will come up with a question that I would have never thought of, and it really helps everybody understand more just because of that one question.” For students who tend to participate regardless of the activity, hearing from quieter students is an extremely powerful learning experience. The QFT creates an engaging environment for all students to learn from each other’s questions.

  • Navigating the website

    • What is the Right Question Network and why should I join?

      The Right Question Network is a community of practitioners dedicated to facilitating strategies so individuals can learn how to ask their own questions and more effectively participate in the decision-making process. It is free to register, and you will be able to access hundreds of resources that will support your work in the field. Register for free today, or learn more about the benefits of joining the Right Question Network.

    • I already have an account, where do I log in?

      You can log in here.

    • I forgot my password, what should I do?

      You can retrieve your forgotten password here.

    • Why can't I access the resources?

      Some of our resources may only be accessed after logging in or register for our free, Right Question Network.

    • Where can I find information about upcoming RQI events?

      RQI hosts online learning experiences, regional seminars, presents at conferences, and occasionally offers PD. To peruse upcoming public and private events, please visit our events page.

    • Can I share RQI's resources or teach the strategy to my colleagues?

      Our materials are available under a Creative Commons Sharealike license. To comply with this license, you must include the following language on all materials you use, share, adapt, or create:

      “Source: The Right Question Institute (RQI). The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) was created by RQI. Visit rightquestion.org for more information and free resources.”

      As long as you include this source language, you are welcome to use, adapt, and share our strategies and materials for noncommercial use. You may also create new materials that reference the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) and/or other Right Question Institute strategies as long as you include the source language above.

      If you are interested in sharing RQI’s resources for commercial purposes you must contact us by selecting the “Permission for Use” option on the contact form.

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