Driving Questions Part 2: A Gold Mine of Ideas to Bring Out Student Inquiry

7/12/2017 12:10:00 AM

Welcome to this second post in a series that promotes student inquiry in PBL and STEM. This series is dedicated to helping educators create a student-centered Driving or Investigative Question… which is so important in STEM and PBL. You will discover multiple resources and ideas in this series, along with some great ideas for facilitating student success in student owned inquiry. In this second post, I would like to provide ideas for both designing and reflecting on Driving Questions. Before reading, please take a moment to subscribe by email or RSS, and also give me a follow… on Twitter at mjgormans. I promise you will find some wonderful information coming your way in the posts that follow…So sign up now and please pass this on with a retweet. Also remember you can book me for a conference or your school district with workshops that are informative, engaging, and practical. Check out my Booking Page and as always… thanks so much!  Mike Gorman (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/)

Quick Notes

I will be presenting at Alan November’s BLC in Boston in July. I have three pre-conference workshops that you may want to register for. They include; One-Half Day PBL Splash, Full Day PBL Starter; and a One-Half Day Technology Workshop dedicated to amplifying standards and process using Technology. I will also have three concurrent session during the main conference. As a member of Alan’s Team all year, it is a lot of fun to meet so many people from around the world at his summer conference in Boston. Learn more at the conference master classes page.

Driving Questions Part 2: Gold Mine of Ideas to Bring Out Student Inquiry 


I really hope you liked my last article on Driving Questions in PBL and STEM. In that article I related “What” Driving Questions are, “Why” they should be included in student lessons and “How” they can promote student inquiry. You can read more about this in my last post. In this post, I would like to provide even more information that will help you understand and use Driving Questions as a source of inquiry in your classroom. I do hope you enjoy and can use these three themes I have provided when working with Driving Questions.

A Selection of 10 Other Types of Questions Used to Promote Inquiry

First, please understand that a Driving Question could be called other things. The bottom line is that it allows for open-ended inquiry. The term Driving Question is often used in PBL because it drives the project. I often call it the Investigative Question because it is the starting point for student investigation.  I like to say it is the IQ of a project. Depending on the project, lesson, or activity you may see these other terms that I have listed below. I am sure you can see how these all have the capability to drive a project.

  • Essential Question
  • Focus Question
  • Guiding Question
  • Probing Question
  • Inquiry Question
  • Challenge Question
  • Design Question
  • Smart Question
  • Investigative Question
  • Inquiry Based Question

The 15 Points to Consider when Creating and Vetting a Driving Question

Next, it is important to examine the construction of a Driving Question. As stated in my last post the Driving Question promotes inquiry that will uncover important content standards. It does not name the standards, but instead provides for a vocabulary that students can understand. As students progress, they may even write their own Driving Questions with guidance of the teacher to keep them within the constraints of the standards. I often tell people there are various things we must consider before writing a Driving Question. After writing a question this same list can be used to vet. Please enjoy the list I have provided below.

  • Topic is relatable by students
  • The outcome is authentic and meaningful
  • It must allow the student to engage in real research
  • The answer is multi-faceted
  • Students have voice and choice in outcome
  • Wording goes beyond education lingo
  • It has a direct relationship to final project
  • Question is as concise as possible… and to the point
  • Content standards can be uncovered
  • Students can come up with NTK’s (Need To Know(s))
  • Students can understand the question
  • It allows for student passion, engagement, and interest
  • Students see relevance, authenticity, and purpose in a real world question
  • Students can work on deepening & expanding Q/A (convergent/divergent thinking)
  • Students are provided a “So What?” in the question (Why are we doing this?)

20 Driving Question Opportunities that can Help Frame a Project

Last, a Driving Question can provide numerous opportunities. There are so many times that it seems PBL and STEM activities are built around solving a problem. Yes, a Driving Question can solve a problem…  and it can also do so much more. The next time you design a project, activity, or question I suggest that you consider these other themes. It can open up a whole new world of possibilities for you and your students. Can you think of even more… or perhaps can your students?

  • Provide a Challenge
  • Seek a New Design
  • Look for a Solutions
  • Campaign to Convince Others
  • Call for Change or Movement
  • Create and Test a Hypothesis
  • Make a Difference
  • Examine a “What If” Scenario
  • Facilitate Innovation/Creativity
  • Make a Call for Action
  • Suggest Change
  • Solicit Others
  • Provide Help and Assistance
  • Expand an Idea
  • Create an Opportunity to Celebrate
  • Start a Movement
  • Educate and Teach Others
  • Encompass an Overarching Theme
  • Invoke a Debate on an Opinion
  • And yes… Identify and Solve a Problem

cross-posted at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education.  His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com.

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