Monday, August 26, 2013

How to develop a high quality Driving Question for #PBL? #coffeechugPLN

Love these shoes on Ava. Growing up too fast!
What journey will your kids take in your classroom?
The next post in my series on Project Based Learning is all about developing a quality Driving Question(you can read the first post here). This is currently the place where many teachers struggle. From what I have read and experienced I think many of us are able to construct an idea that we want to tackle. The issue with our ideas are that they are often too large with way too many avenues. We must sort through the many ideas and thoughts to find the core of the issue and realize what is it that we specifically want to accomplish?

When we do this I am not suggesting that we narrow things down to a point where every student ends the same way. I am also not suggesting that all these other potential paths cannot be explored, but instead we we need to guide our plan to that one overall arching idea concept that will allow the journey of exploration. 

This is much harder than it seems.

However, if you are struggling with an idea to begin with, then ask yourself the following question "Where in the real world is the content I am teaching being used?" Once you can identify this, then start to figure out how to bring that mindset and real world example into the classroom. Perhaps contact that company or business and ask what they are stuck on and maybe your students can solve that issue. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Here are some ideas that I have gathered to help educators with this dilemma.

1. Simplicity for exploration - when we develop and construct our Driving Questions they have to be simple. This makes is difficult. We also have to rewire our brains as educators to stop thinking along the brainwashed system of systematic thinking. The goal of a Driving Question must be developed in a way that the students discover the content standards themselves. There is no need for educators to give that all to them up front. The question should entice students to tackle the question head on to find a viable answer. 

2. Pass the test - I love this idea from BIE. You Driving Question should not be Googleable. If it can pass this test, then you are in good shape.

3. Don't forget inquiry. Students should be asking questions, exploring possible answers, and trying to arrive at a possible conclusion through the four C's.

4. Driving Questions key reminders
  • Provocative - make it engaging and interesting. Try to appeal to them on an emotional level if possible. You have to create a novelty experience right away or the project will be a bust.
  • Open ended - give them freedom to explore and find answers. You may not have all the answers and that is okay. This is part of the journey and teachers are no longer required to know all the answers, but must be able to help guide them down the path of their own learning.
  • Don't lose sight of what you are trying to achieve. Make sure it all ties back to your goal as an educator.
5. Final Coffeechug Tidbits
  • Inquiry is the engine that drives learning in PBL
  • Curiosity is the engine for learning in PBL
  • Humans are born curious. Never forget that! We must bring the curiosity back into schools instead of sucking it away so every child looks the same!
  • PBL helps students develop productive habits of mind.
  • Teachers need to develop novelty(which ties in with my Passion presentation). You might not notice a person walking by your classroom, but you would a tiger. When we develop novelty and excitement the brain becomes alert and receptive. Brain research!
6. A basic templateThis might help with creating a driving question. All of the information below is from

Start with one of the following:How can...How do...Should...Could...What...

Then move to the who...I/WeWe as...A specific place or community

Then add the,.,

Lastly...(the problem)for an audiencefor a schoolfor a classroom

Further ResourcesA great description and checklist of ideas to creating a Driving Questions - Nice Compilation for Developing a Driving Question, which is an Essential Element of Projects.

The Driving Question Tubric by Resources -

A fantastic pdf with a template and rubric to gauge your Driving Question -

The next post will contain ideas and questions to help create and build up hype and interest to your projects. In the meantime, please let me know what questions you have about Driving Questions or other ideas, thoughts, resources. I am constantly learning.

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