Part 1: Facilitating Inquiry in the Classroom… Driving and Investigative Questions

Part 1: Facilitating Inquiry in the Classroom… Driving and Investigative Questions

Welcome to this first post in a series that promotes student inquiry in the classroom. This post is dedicated to writing that Driving or Investigative Question which is so important in STEM and PBL. You will discover multiple resources in this series along with some great ideas for finding student success in student owned inquiry. 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 great information coming your way in the posts that follow…So sign up now and please pass this on with a retweet. – Mike Gorman (

Part 1: Facilitating Inquiry in the Classroom… Driving and Investigative Questions

I really like Diving and Investigative Questions. In fact, I like them so much more than Essential Questions. You might ask why? I think it just might be my affection for the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. You may remember that in the revision the different levels were changed into action. In fact, I strongly believe that learning is a verb and is based on action. Take away the word “Question” and both Driving and Investigating are wonderful verbs loaded with action. The word “Essential” standing alone is only a word devoted to describing… a colorful but inactive adjective.

Another reason I am fond of “Driving and Investigative Questions” is that they allow students to work together in the amazing process of divergent thinking. As students bring this process around to identify answers and ideas that finally converge, they are suddenly back on the path to even higher order divergent thinking. It is amazing to watch students become aware that answers can bring on even more questions. Seems to me that it is a lot as if they are moving up Bloom’s Taxonomy.

I believe that both DQ and IQ allow students to take part in real inquiry and research. If the question is Google-able then it probably is not deep inquiry. Now, using advanced Google skills to find answers that create more questions fits the bill for common core skills. Literacy that is built to comprehend, analyze, compare, contrast, and make meaning of nonfiction across the disciplines is essential. Take a look at portions of standards educators must facilitate with students. These really do sound like some great inquiry action that can be found on the super highway of Driving Questions.

Last, I like “Driving and Investigative Questions because there are so simple, that they can be difficult to construct. Let me explain. The Driving Question or Investigative Question in Project Based learning and STEM can be often the hardest concept to get across to teachers. Even after a workshop devoted to PBL… questions will come across my email asking for help in constructing and refining the Driving or InvestigativeQuestion.

Writing TheDQ and IQ’s For Student-centered Learning In PBL, STEM, and Inquiry

Why are driving and investigative questions so difficult? Perhaps it is the powerful and simple concept they ride upon in a world where teachers have been taught to use so much of their “educationese language” Educators must work at being aware of the important standards in their content area without blurting them out. It is at this point that educators come across that often talked about the idea of uncovering, not covering, the standards. Educators are so often told to practice this methodology but are seldom told how to do it.

This is the power of the Driving and Investigative question and its importance in PBL and STEM. It must be simply stated so that students can uncover the content standards themselves. It should not give away the contents standards which students may not really care about. It should engage the students and create wonderment through relevance to their world. It should drive them to “uncover the standards” Through carefully planned PBL and STEM the teacher then facilitates this learning experience. The added bonus of building import21st-centurytury skills is a natural outcome. In order for students to “uncover the standards” they will need to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and provide creative thought.

Examples comparing an Essential Question to a Driving or Investigative Question:

  • EQ: Can you describe a typical food chain for the herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores in the deciduous forest biome.
  • DQ/IQ:How can we as authors write a restaurant storybook menu for animals that live in the forest ?
  • EQ: How are measurement skills and our knowledge of math and geometry related to building a dream park with a given set of dimensions and budget?
  • DQ/IQ: In what way can we design, plan, and pitch a needed park for our community ?
  • EQ: What are the characteristics of the planets in our solar system in regards to atmosphere, surface, and composition?
  • DQ/IQ: How can we, as NASA scientists, write a proposal that recommends which planet should be explored by the next space probe?
  • DQ/IQ: How can robots provide automation and use computer programs and code to deliver a given task?
  • DQ/IQ: Can we program a robot to …. ?
  • EQ: Can we name the various reasons that the American Colonies declared independence from England?
  • DQ/IQ: How might we write and produce a play that could be used today, or in our countries early history, to show why the colonies should declare independence?

Keep in mind that the Driving or Investigative Question may take on many names. The important point is that it drives an investigation based on student owned inquiry. It really is the very first step in providing students that opportunity to not just answer the question, but come up with their own.

Next Post … Facilitating Student Questions

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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