Key Features of Driving Questions

• • • • Students can design an investigation to answer the question. Students can perform an investigation to answer the question. Materials for the investigation are readily available. The question is developmentally appropriate for the students.

• • • • • • The The The The The The question question question question question question is related to what scientists or other professionals really do. is rich in content and concepts from the content area(s). helps students link concepts from the discipline. is complex enough to be broken down into smaller questions. leads to further questions. meets district, state, or national curriculum standards.

• • The question is anchored in real world issues. The question has real world consequences.

• • • The question is interesting and important to learners. The question intersects with learner’s lives, reality, and culture. The phenomena covered by the question are of interest to students.

• The practices used to answer the question do not harm living organisms or the environment.

• • The question allows students to pursue solutions over time. Students can pursue answers to the question in great detail.

Types of Driving Questions/Unit Tasks
• • Students can design and perform an investigation to answer the question. Students can analyze data from existing datasets to answer the question.


Students address a scenario or problem This approach often uses a proposal, design, or plan to address a contextual problem they can relate to.


Students build knowledge through research and documentation o This approach often uses a jigsaw and presentation approach to address a broad range of content

Key Questions to Help Evaluate Your Driving Question / Task
Goal: What is the driving question/task of the project/unit?
Question #1: learn? What content will the students

If you are not addressing content with your question, you need to re-evaluate the question. All driving questions and inquiry projects should aim to address some content understanding, as well as the inquiry and research process.

Question #2: met?

What content standards will be

Like number one, you should not only be addressing content, but you should specifically be addressing those areas identified as needed concepts for student understanding – specifically those mentioned by district or state standards. With this, you can also begin to shape your question, so that the work done by students can help evaluate whether or not they have learned this content.

Question #3: questions?

Can students generate their own

If the content is too difficult or completely unrelated to students’ lives, you should re-evaluate your question. Likewise, you want to consider how much input students will have in investigating their own sub-questions while addressing the driving question.

Question #4: do?

What investigations can students

Investigations should be able to be generated (eventually) by the students. If the question leads to investigations that are beyond their scope or capabilities, you need to redesign your driving question.

Question #5: How is the question anchored in the real world?

While they may be fun or interesting for some to consider, hypothetical questions or those drawn from abstract concepts can be especially challenging for students to investigate.

Question #6: students?

How is the question meaningful for

This takes the previous question to a finer level of detail. Not only should the question be anchored in the real world, but it should also be relevant to students’ lives. Asking students about something they haven’t seen or experienced, even if from a real world event, does not engage students nearly as well as those questions to which they can directly relate. Remember, the question should also elicit prior knowledge from the student to help understand how it can be answered.

Question #7: engagement?

Can the question sustain student

In other words, is it engaging enough to be able to maintain student interest over the course of the project, and deep enough to allow students to investigate many layers of the topic?

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