Authors: Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana
APA Style Citation
Rothstein, D & Santana, L. (2011). Make just one change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
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How would you describe a student-centered classroom? One answer might include students doing the thinking, talking, and producing. Teachers have all been faced with the sound of crickets after they ask, “Are there any questions?” Perhaps it is because students don’t know how to ask questions. Make Just One Change offers the Question Formulation Technique for the teacher’s toolbox to help students learn how to ask questions.
The authors, Rothstein and Santana, recognized the need to be taught how to ask the right questions in school. They were impacted by parents commenting on how they couldn’t help their children with their school work because they didn’t know what questions to ask. The traditional education system has focused on teacher questions and student answers for too long. Instead, all students should learn how to ask questions and teachers can easily incorporate this skill into their lessons. After years of experimenting, the authors have landed on a six-step process that helps students exercise their questioning muscle for future growth. The strategy focuses on divergent thinking (multiple answers), convergent thinking (narrowing of options), and metacognition (thinking about your thinking). With these new skills, students will have an easier time writing essay, reading texts, identifying research questions, designing experiments, participating in Socratic seminars, creating homework assignments, and preparing for tests.
When students can ask questions, it improves their ownership in learning, engagement, learning outcomes, and confidence. The Question Formulation Technique helps with teamwork skills and classroom management. It promotes democracy and turn students into life-long learners. It has also been found effective with at-risk students, especially minorities to bridge the achievement gap.
A short summary of the six core components has been provided below.
- Question Focus or QFocus
- Produce Questions
After explaining the rules, teachers should help facilitate a discussion on the challenges of using these rules. Students will discuss the challenges in small groups in order to draw attention to the rules and participate in metacognition. After the discussion, students will start to produce their own questions. The teacher should monitor students and remind them of the rules. If necessary, starters to questions can be provided, such as what, when, or how. However, it is very important to not give examples or questions while supporting students because they will feel there is a correct way of questioning.
- Identify Closed- vs. Open-ended Questions
- Prioritize Questions
- Provide Next Steps
Other Related Resources
Right Question Institute
The Brainwaves Anthology: Dan Rothstain- Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions
The Brainwaves Anthology: Luz Santana- The Right Question Institute
TEDxSomerville- Dan Rothstein: Did Socrates Get it Wrong?
Harvard EdCast- Make Just One Change
Psychological Concepts and Figures