Getting Students to Ask the “Right Questions”

Have you heard of the Right Question Institute (RQI)? Their mission is to promote “a strategy for teaching all people to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions.” They’ve named that strategy the Question Formulation Technique™ (QFT).  I’m usually skeptical of über-trendy educational philosophies, especially ones that include trademarked techniques.

I do see value in the QFT strategy though, which is based in part on metacognitive principles. This particular strategy lends itself well to information literacy.

The QFT consists of 4 rules for producing questions:

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

The RQI’s web site includes plenty of resources for implementing this strategy in the classroom. However, they do state that teaching QFT for the first time requires at least 40-45 minutes. That won’t work for a one-shot IL session.

So, here’s my version of QFT for a one-shot session on evaluating resources. (You’ll need a student response system for this. I recommend Socrative.)

  1. Using evaluation criteria such as the CRAAP test, assign each student a single criterion. For example, if you have 20 students, 4 students would be assigned to each criterion. Make sure to provide each student with a Think Sheet that briefly explains the evaluation criteria.
  2. Give the students 10 minutes to produce questions. Students will only produce questions that focus on the criterion they have been assigned.
  3. At the end of 10 minutes, give students 1 minute to select the best question they produced.
  4. For each criterion, have that group of students enter their best questions in Socrative, and then have the class vote on the best of the best. This should be done one criterion at a time. For example, if you have 4 students who produced questions for Relevance, then those 4 students would enter their best questions at the appropriate time, and the whole class would vote on the best of those questions, and so forth.
  5. Write down the best of the best for each criterion on the board.
  6. Once the best of the best have been chosen, the students will use those questions to fully evaluate a source. This part should be done in small groups.
  7. The class would then discuss their findings and perspectives.
  8. Provide a second (contrasting) source for students to evaluate using the same questions.
  9. Have students compare and contrast the two sources.

While this activity results in fewer sources being evaluated, the strategy of getting students to create their own questions will foster deeper thinking. And that’s what information literacy is all about.

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