Chapter 3 in Markham, John Larmer, and Jason Louis. Ravitz. Project Based Learning Handbook: A Guide to Standards-focused Project Base Learning for Middle and High School Teachers. Novato, CA: Buck Institute for Education, 2003. Print.
Driving questions are provocative
- engages student throughout the duration of a project
- example: Do music videos paint an accurate picture of America?
Driving questions are open-ended
- no easy answers
- requires higher level thinking
- require students to integrate, synthesize and critically evaluate info
Driving Questions go to the heart of a discipline or topic
- can focus on central controversies of the discipline
- can require discipline-specific processes to resolve
- example: How safe is our water?
- biology / chemistry / physiology project
Driving questions are challenging
- opportunities to try out unfamiliar behaviors
- confront difficult issues
- example: When are people justified in revolting against an established government?
- project on conflict and revolution in Latin America
Driving questions can arise from real-world dilemmas that students find interesting
- example: How could we build a new community center using only materials that are native to the state?
- project on physical and chemical properties
Driving questions are consistent with curricular standards
- lead students to master knowledge and skills in project standards
Refining the driving question
- Broaden the question:
- Ex: Was Truman’s decision to drop the bomb justified? -> Can the use of nuclear weapons be justified?
- Add predictions to question:
- Ex: How have robotics and automation changed our society in the past century? -> How might robotics and automation change our town and its businesses in the next century?
- Add expert guidelines and opportunities to examine central themes:
- Ex: What happened to the ancestral Pueblo people? Create an exhibit using words and pictures. -> Why do civilizations such as the ancestral Pueblo, Inca, or Aztec civilizations disappear? Put together a presentation suitable for an archeology convention that supports your case.
- Go local
- Ex: What is global warming? -> Should we be worried about global warming in our town
- Add investigations of change
- Ex: What have been the the most popular novels among teenagers in the last 30 years? -> How has reading changed for teenagers over the last 30 years?
- Include a problem that needs solving
- Ex: What is radiation fog and how can it be dangerous? -> How can we reduce traffic accidents associated with radiation fog?
For more discussion on driving questions, see this article: Essential questions.
Driving questions motivate students to apply their new knowledge and skills to tackle a difficult problem. They are lighthouses that inspire and unite activities and products in a project. A good driving question can be used as a pre-assessment, formative assessment and summative assessment.
- Analyze upcoming bundle of standards
- Identify authentic and interesting themes that go with bundle of standards
- Craft a driving question that highlights important issue(s) in the chosen project theme
- Examine driving question using revising methods (see list above) and see if any of these can be used to improve the question
Early Implementation Steps
- Display the driving question (online in project hub and physical in readily visible part of classroom)
- Use driving question to trigger knows and need-to-knows
- Use driving question to frame products and scaffolding activities
Advanced Implementation Steps
- Ask for feedback on driving question and use that feedback to refine the question
- Teach students how to create related questions from driving question and use these as the center for their projects
- Use driving question as pre-assessment and priming the brain activity near the start of a project
- Maintain a concept map wall that goes with driving question that is updated throughout the project