Teaching Tips

Question Formulation Technique

A few weeks ago, I attended a mentoring conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the sessions I attended was about helping mentors and tutors ask questions that help move conversations forward with their mentees and tutees. This strategy is called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). While this session was designed specifically with mentors and tutors in mind, I believe this strategy could be used in the classroom with students.

In order to plan this activity, you need at least a 30 min class period.  The materials needed are paper, pens or pencils, and copies of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  I personally like the wheel Bloom’s Taxonomy that also provides examples of questions and phrases that correlate under each category in the taxonomy.  You can find an example of the one I like here.   I recommend having the students be in pairs or triples for this activity.  It also helps to assign the partnerships, but that is completely up to you.

There are 4 phases to this activity.

Phase 1:

(7-10 mins) Choose a topic—the students can choose a topic they would like to ask questions about, or you can assign them topics.  I found that topics related to course material are the best for this activity and help the students discuss the content in a new way.   Once a topic is chosen, have the students list as many questions as they can.  They are to make sure not to answer the questions.  Tell the students that this is just a generative step. If statements are said, have the students turn those statements into questions.  The students will continue to write down all of the questions that they can think of until you tell them to stop.  The kinds of questions do not matter, so encourage them to write any and all ideas!

Phase 2:

(7-10 min) During this step, the students review their list of questions and use a copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy to identify the types of questions they asked (see above for the copy I like to use).  The students use the categories on the taxonomy to help them classify the types of questions they asked.  After you give the students ample time to do this, encourage them to share out what types of questions they asked.  By reflecting on what questions they asked and being able to identify the questions, the students may see how their questions evolved as they asked more questions to get deeper into the topic.  Help them make the connection that digging deeper into the material requires them to ask certain kinds of questions.

Phase 3:

(5-7 mins) The third part of this lesson is for students to shorten their extensive list of questions.  Have the students choose 3 questions that they want to focus on.  After they have done this, engage in a dialogue with them about why they chose the questions they chose. Students often respond that these questions covered most of their other questions.

Phase 4:

The last step is application.   Students reflect on their extensive list and then see how they were able to bring the list down to three direct questions.  Now they are to decide what they will do with these questions.  Are they going to answer them?  Write a paper?  Ask more questions? As an entire class share out this process on how they could use this for your class.  Also ask the students what they learned throughout this process. Lastly, have the students reflect on how this could be useful again to them in the future.  Perhaps they use this strategy to generate a thesis from the question or maybe they use the questions as supporting paragraphs for their thesis statement.

When I participated in this activity during the conference, I realized how this activity helped me to think more about the power of a question.  I also recognized the significance of asking the correct type of question.  If I want to dig deeper into a conversation, reading passage, or paper, then I have to know how to ask higher—level thinking skills.

If you want suggestions of how to get this activity into your classroom, feel free to send me an email.  If you decide to try this strategy, then let me know how it goes in the comments section.  Lastly, if you’re looking for more information about QFT or are interested in learning where this idea came from, click here to be directed to the Right Question Institute.  Happy questioning!

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