What is the QFT?

Developed by the Right Question Institute, the Question Formulation Technique, or QFT, is a structured method for generating and improving questions. It distills sophisticated forms of divergent, convergent, and metacognitive thinking into a deceptively simple, accessible, and reproducible technique.

The QFT builds the skill of asking questions, an essential — yet often overlooked — lifelong learning skill that allows people to think critically, feel greater power and self-efficacy, and become more confident and ready to participate in civic life.

Using the QFT with students

Students use the QFT in a humanities classroom in Boston.

See the Most Popular QFT Resources

Using the QFT with adults

Groups of parents work together to generate questions.

Find More QFT Videos

Steps of the QFT

The steps of the QFT are designed to stimulate three types of thinking: divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and metacognitive thinking.

Each step of the process can be a learning experience on its own. But the real power of the QFT comes when all steps — and all three thinking abilities — work together.

Quick Overview: the QFT on One Page

Design a Question Focus (QFocus)

The QFocus is a stimulus for jumpstarting questions. It is the focus of question formulation. The QFocus may be a statement, phrase, image, video, aural aid, math problem, equation, or anything else that gets the questions flowing. It may not be a question, and it should be related to the content or intended learning outcomes. A good QFocus should be simple and clear, and it should encourage divergent thinking.

Free Tool: An Introduction to Question Focus Design

Introduce the rules

Introduce the four essential rules for producing questions:

  1. Ask as many questions as you can.
  2. Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer the questions.
  3. Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
  4. Change any statement into a question.

Remind people to follow the rules each time you use the technique.

Give instructions to think about the rules, and let participants — whether they’re students or adults — discuss one of the following:

  • What might be difficult about following the rules for producing questions?
  • Which rule might be most difficult to follow?

Avoid naming or telling participants the difficulties or value of the rules. Let them think about it themselves.

See More About Rules for Producing Questions

Introduce the Question Focus and produce questions

Notice how producing questions is just one relatively quick step in the QFT process. To get the most depth and nuance out of the QFT, use all the steps.

In this step, present the QFocus without any additional information, keeping explanation to a minimum.

Following the rules, participants make a list of questions using the QFocus as the focus for their questions. Number each question (1, 2, 3, etc.) This step helps people think divergently.

Get Started Now: Template for Facilitating the QFT

Improve questions

Participants work with the questions they produced. This step helps people do high-level work with their questions and identify how different types of questions elicit different types of information and answers.

Questions can be open- or closed-ended. Closed-ended questions can be answered with yes, no, or with one word. Open-ended questions require an explanation and cannot be answered with yes, no, or with one word.

Categorize questions as closed-ended or open-ended. Participants find closed-ended questions and mark them with a “C.” They find open-ended questions and mark them with an “O.”

Discuss the value of each type of question. Identify advantages and disadvantages of closed-ended questions. Identify advantages and disadvantages of open-ended questions.

Change questions from one type to another. In other words, change one closed-ended question to an open-ended question. Then, change one open-ended question to closed-ended one.

More: Steps of the QFT with Classroom-Based Videos

Prioritize questions

Prioritization instructions should bring participants back to the central objective. This step helps participants think convergently. For students, prioritization instructions bring them back to teaching objectives and the plan for using student-generated questions. You can prioritize as many questions as you want. In our example, we’ve chosen to prioritize three questions.

Here are some examples of prioritization instructions: “Choose three questions that …”

  • You consider most important
  • Will help with your research
  • Can be used for your experiment
  • Will guide your reading/writing
  • Can be answered as you read
  • Will help you solve the problem

Participants should discuss and share why they selected their priority questions and where their priority questions fell in the sequence of their question list. (For instance, a group may decide to prioritize questions 6, 14, and 27 on their list.)

Downloadable Worksheet for Using the QFT in Small Group

Discuss next steps

How will questions be used? Next steps should align with priority instructions. For students, this further contextualizes how their questions will be used.

Free Video: Using the QFT for Formative Assessment


Participants should reflect:

  • What did you learn?
  • How can you use what you learned?

This step helps people think metacognitively about how they used questions to learn. It allows them to reflect on new lines of thinking they may have developed.

Step-by-Step Tool: Introducing the QFT into Your Classroom Practice

General tips for facilitation

  • The role of the QFT-leader is to facilitate the participants moving through the different steps of the QFT as simply as possible. We call this person the facilitator. In a classroom, the teacher is the one who facilitates the QFT.
  • Monitor group work and give clarifying instructions as needed. Go around the room to observe group work and interactions during the process. Listen for the types of questions participants are asking. Try your best not to get pulled into their discussions. Avoid answering any questions while people are in the process of producing questions.
  • Validate everyone’s contributions equally. Use the same words for all contributions. For example: “thank you” acknowledges contributions neutrally. Using different words to validate different contributions (e.g. good, great, excellent question) may discourage some people from participating.
  • Avoid giving examples of questions participants should be asking. If you do, you will be setting the direction of the questions and impeding independent thinking.
  • Allow groups to work at their own pace. It is okay if some groups produce more questions than others. If a group seems stuck, prompt them with the QFocus. For example, “Look at your QFocus and think about if there’s anything you would like to know about it and ask a question.” The value of producing questions is in the process of thinking and not in the number of questions produced.

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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 Question Formulation Technique (QFT) was created by the Right Question Institute (rightquestion.org)

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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