QFT “Question Formulation Technique”

Posted: September 21, 2011 in learning, Punk Learning

How many of these strategies/activities do you plan into your lessons?

  • Attempt to ask every student a question.
  • No hands up rule.
  • Random Name Generator/Lollypop sticks to choose students to ask questions to.
  • Socratic Questioning.
  • Questioning using Blooms Taxonomy.
  • Mini White Boards to gauge students’ answers.

We tend to ask a lot of questions, don’t we? Don’t get me wrong, effective questioning is key to many successful learning experiences and underpins AfL but…….we tend to ask a lot of questions, don’t we?

It stands to reason that if a student creates their own question they are more likely to take ownership of it and actually want to answer it. Students can learn more from asking questions than they can answering them. Students will probably be very creative in what they want to learn and therefore their questions will be little inquisitive gems!

After a lesson on Forensic Science (we discussing the importance of observational skills and took some fingerprints from a mock crime scene – part of the UpD8 Wikid Forensics Module) with my Year 7 class, I asked them to come up with two questions each that they wanted answers for.

I told them to literally write down the first questions that popped into their head – we talked about how sometimes a question that may seem “silly” or appear to be “unanswerable” can sometimes lead to a fascinating learning dialouge when we attempt to answer them. A perfect example of this is Ian Gilbert’s brilliant “Thunks”.

We also used our “Ask Really Good Questions” cards (from Alite’s Learning to Learn series)

Anyway, read a selection of what they came up with……

  • How do fingerprints “stick” onto things?
  • Why do we use carbon powder to find fingerprints?
  • How does the forensic tape lift up the fingerprints?
  • Do identical twins have identical fingerprints?
  • Does everybody have fingerprints?
  • Can you graft fingerprints from one person to another?
  • Do fingerprints change as we get older?
  • Why do we have fingerprints at all?
  • Can fingerprints tell us what a person is like?

Pretty impressive eh? This was the very first step of our QFT (Question Formulation Technique). The complete technique is shown below. (Scroll down to the bottom to see more of our QTF sessions)

Question Formulation Technique © The Right Question Institute.

Produce Your Questions
Four essential rules for producing your own questions:

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

Improve Your Questions
• Categorise the questions as closed or open-ended.
• Name the advantages and disadvantages of each type of question.
• Change questions from one type to another.

Prioritise the Questions
• Choose your three most important questions.
• Why did you choose these three as the most important?

Next Steps
• How are you going to use your questions?

I’ve adapted this slightly and placed a final step, where students reflect on the technique – discussing what they learnt from QTF, how they learnt from QTF and how they could apply what they have learnt to other situations.

I have created a pretty simple display in my room to show students the five steps of a successful QTF.

Click here to download it

Just heard today that the brilliant @pauldavidmac used QFT in his Year 13 class! Check this out….

“Used question formulation technique @Totallywired77 today with my Yr 13 #exphys students. Step 6 set as homework task”

“Step 5 of QFT in action with #exphys #rossett students. Worked v well & taught each other! @SamByrne94 @Totallywired77″

“Question formulation technique worked well today with Yr 13 #exphys students.#flippedclassroom”

Also check out this Lino.it canvass where Paul asked his students to reflect on the QTF session – amazing!

Some further reading on QFT

“Teaching Students to ask their own questions” By DAN ROTHSTEIN and LUZ SANTANA

“Question Formulation Technique” By Facing History and Ourselves


Some images from another successful QTF session – this time the students were learning about Particle Theory.

Step 1 Produce our own questions (notice the “C” and “O” annotations)

Step 2 Improve our questions

Step 3 Prioritise our questions

  1. […] lots you can do with questioning in your classroom. Question formulation technique. Socratic questioning (and much much more). For me, my overriding philosophy is that I really do […]

  2. […] using a version of QFT to get a fuller image of their island (I became God for a moment and allowed them to ask me […]

  3. […] question formulation technique is another useful strategy. Se also this blog post for a […]

  4. […] Edssential article from @totallywired77 : […]

  5. […] he does do is use the question formulation technique, constructing, prioritising / disregarding and asking questions. Asks students to draft their […]

  6. […] using a version of QFT to get a fuller image of their island (I became God for a moment and allowed them to ask me […]

  7. […] using a version of QFT to get a fuller image of their island (I became God for a moment and allowed them to ask me […]

  8. […] My students will need to learn about Food and Digestion (one group will look solely at the digestive system while the other will look at that plus what is a balanced diet and where do we get it from). The next part I’m really excited about; this is where we are going to create the driving questions (or the punk questions) for the learning. We will be using Question Formulating Technique or QFT, I have written about this before here. […]

  9. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } taitcoles.wordpress.com – Today, 7:22 […]

  10. […] QFT “Question Formulation Technique” How many of these strategies/activities do you plan into your lessons? Attempt to ask every student a question. No hands up rule. Random Name Generator/Lollypop sticks to choose students to… Source: taitcoles.wordpress.com […]

  11. […] QFT “Question Formulation Technique” How many of these strategies/activities do you plan into your lessons? Attempt to ask every student a question. No hands up rule. Random Name Generator/Lollypop sticks to choose students to… Source: taitcoles.wordpress.com […]

  12. […] worth a read is Tait Coles post, as he looks at the process of students writing the own questions and QFT “Question Formulation […]

  13. So inspired by all these great examples! You are articulating beautifully the transformative power of using the QFT with students of all ages and levels. Your examples of how you used it and the wonderful reflections by students offer great detail and insights. We’ll be creating a network of teachers around the world who are using the QFT. Sounds like all of you are charter members! We are hopeful that our book (http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/144/MakeJustOneChange) will be a resource that will help more teachers use the QFT in their classrooms. It just came out this week! If you go to our website, http://www.rightquestion.org and sign up for our newsletter, we’ll make sure you’ll get information on the network as soon as it’s ready to launch next month. thanks for your great work.
    Dan Rothstein

  14. Good work Tait. I tried this myself this week teaching John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to Year 11. I’m a big fan of jigsawing and home/expert groups & this looked like it would fit in well. Each home group had to create a role play which explored the relationships between the characters in Chapter 3. They moved into expert groups were I got them to write down as many questions as they could on a particular character. Next step was to sort them into categories (open/closed, factual/conceptual etc.) They then chose & justified favourites before feeding back and voting on the ‘best’ questions. My favourite was, Why doesn’t Curley’s wife have a name? Minds abuzz, they moved back into home groups and began work on their role plays. I asked them at the end to reflect on how asking rather than answering questions had helped and some of the responses were illuminating: It makes you think deeper; I had to consider more things than usual; we didn’t waste time writing answers…

    After they’ve presented their role plays next week, I’ll put together a blog post about it

    Cheers, David

    • taitcoles says:

      Thanks for your comment David, their learning sounds brilliant. It’s amazing what Q’s students create when given the opportunity – all we have to do (sounds easy!!) is plan these opportunities for them.

      I often use home/away groups but will now change the group name to expert in future – love that, thanks! Would be really interested to hear about their presentations next week. Cheers, Tait

  15. @dukkhaboy says:

    This looks like a great idea. I was thinking how to get my KS3 students to tell me what they would like to learn about in their geography lessons. I want to be able to teach at least one unit based on what they have told me is interesting.
    I think i could use this with Year 8’s. I would maybe start the lesson with a ‘what is geography?’ discussion (as they did Humanities in Year 7 they may not be that clear as yet!) and then get them to ask questions about any or different areas of the subject.
    As you have you used this scheme of questioning before do you think that might work using in such a way?

    • taitcoles says:

      Definitely!! Asking your students want they want to learn from a topic would undoubtedly increase both engagement and ownership. However, with this huge opportunity for creativity and independence the lesson plans may resemble a blank piece of paper!!! I personally think that’s the beauty of it – you don’t know what they’re going to ask, you don’t know which way they’re going to go! Of course you can channel and steer them into the “right” direction if you wanted. Depending on your school/faculty/HoD etc why not give them complete ownership of the whole topic? Ask what they want to learn, ask how they want to learn it…..and then let them get on with it! The final lessons would be student presentation on their learning journey…..brave? silly? maybe, but how great would it be?

      • Anonymous says:

        My idea is to use the questiioning to find out what topics they would like to do. Do this with all 6 classes in the year and collate answers. Hadn’t thought how to teach the topics they want. Could ask them that as well I guess!

        • taitcoles says:

          If you give them complete ownership – you won’t have to teach the topics they want (well maybe a bit) imagine 6 groups reserching, collaborating and learning about 6 different geog topics?? Perhaps presenting their findings to the whole class and HoD, SLT etc.

          Do it in KS3 mate, we won’t have time in KS4!!! content, exams, content, exams, content, exams, content, exams, content, exams,

          • Anonymous says:

            Yh am gonna do it around this half term with y8. Only dilemma is they will need some intro on “what is geography?” as they did humanities in y7. However if I give them too much I will lead their ideas and I want them to do the choosing.

  16. […] For this episode, a few notes that are easily copied, then turned into a handout of questions, copied on to a whiteboard (leave up as the starter and see how many they can answer afterwards, no writing allowed), or just read out. All times are approximate, jotted as I watched, scribbled questions and scoffed my tea. A lot of these are fairly trivial, and I’d suggest using only a selection – perhaps as a stimulus to inspire students to write their own, more useful questions. (I’m probably going to try out the Question Formulation Technique as described in @totallywired77′s blog post.) […]

  17. mcintosh8 says:

    Really loved this when I tried it with my Yr 13 A2exercisephysiology class. The concept of students devising their own questions & then searching for the subsequent is really empowering for them. I would recommend everyone to give it a go!

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