Asking the Questions, Connecting the Dots…


In my previous post I shared how app(roach) smashing the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) within the GID Framework is not only worth trying, but well worth doing.

So now to the nitty gritty—where exactly might you use the QFT within GID?

Open Phase:

The opener is the hook that sparks curiosity and paves the way for inquiry. One way to do this could be to use an artifact, object, image, photograph, quotation or video related to the curricular focus and use that as a QFocus.

Immerse Phase:

In the Immerse Phase, everyone builds collective background knowledge via a particular experience or interaction, from reading a common text to watching a performance or role playing in a simulation. The QFT could become a possible post-immersion activity, using collaborative crowdsourcing to leverage what everyone has picked up from the Immerse phase. The cool thing about doing the QFT after the Immerse phase (or Explore phase) is that students now have some prior/background knowledge in order to ask higher-order, open questions beyond basic fact-based ones. Students could use these as “under the radar” questions in their minds as they enter the Explore phase, without making any serious commitments to a particular research focus as of yet.

For example, in a recent WWII/Holocaust collaborative project between 8th grade reading and English at my campus, our learning team structured the Immersion phase as study of various nonfiction articles about the time period students read and discussed in their reading classes, while students studied the book Night in their English classes. Then before going into the Explore phase, we set up a double-class QFT involving 9 different “QFocus statement stations” based on core historical themes and issues paralleled in their collective readings. The Explore phase was an online interactive LibGuide that hosted these QFocus areas in more depth through varied multimedia content.

Explore Phase: During or After

As students explore in this phase, they “survey” myriad sources, “read when they find something interesting,” and “reflect on questions that begin to shape their inquiry.” They still remain uncommitted to any driving question(s) or collecting information from what they discover; the point is for them to “keep an open mind” as they explore, read and reflect on what they come across. While doing this, the questions generated by a QFT done between the Immerse and Explore phases can help dovetail into guiding students into narrowing down what they want to explore in more depth at the end of Explore, moving into the Identify phase. Their level of questions will also be higher, since the “Exploring strategies are designed to put the ideas generated in the Immerse sessions to work.”

Identify Phase:

In this “pause and ponder” phase, students identify their inquiry question that will propel them forward and decide the direction they will take through the remaining GID phases.

There are three ways a QFT could work in this phase:

  • To help students develop driving questions individually
  • Through a Learning Team intervention
  • Through smaller inquiry circles or classmate consults

Students could revisit a previous QFocus and generate additional questions via their own QFT, or use a specific area of interest they uncovered or explored during the Exploration phase.

The Learning Team could check the pulse of inquiry and see where students are, using any formative assessment “intel” to then shape into a more solid QFocus either for the class or individual students.

Another option is to pair down an inquiry circle into a classmate consult pairing of questioner and listener. The questioner seeks feedback on any “emerging insights” as potential fodder for a QFocus and subsequent questions, and the listener offers feedback by listening and making suggestions based on their interchange.

The QFT lends itself to these peer conversations by using co-construction front and center; if the QFT is done individually at some point in GID, then students and the LT can still collaborate and share ideas for QFocus statements and related questions in smaller inquiry circles or pairs, and larger inquiry communities that comprise the entire class.

Some ideas for helping students to generate a QFocus on their own or via a classmate consult or LT conference/conversation:

  • Use a title or significant quotation from a discovered source, image, etc, that they found most intriguing
  • Make a visual diagram of the pit stops of exploration, and choose one to generate more in-depth higher level questions from that
  • Use a question of interest from any previous QFT activities and turn it into a statement

Getting Meta about Inquiry

There’s another connecting thread between the QFT and GID—that of reflection and metacognition.

The last essential step in the QFT is reflecting on the process itself; this step mirrors that of Evaluation as the last phase in GID. In GID, the Evaluation phase focuses on evaluating the student’s product and their own process used to create it.

As cited in Make Just One Change, metacognition is an essential part of learning how to learn. As students reflect on the QFT process they have just used, they are doing more than that—they are using metacognition to cement the process and see themselves as agents in their own knowledge construction.

Likewise, the Evaluation phase in GID asks students to evaluate how they have learned along the way by assessing their process along with any products they’ve created as a result of the inquiry process. Students self-reflect on how they internalized the inquiry process to propel their own learning and develop their own self-directed processes for learning in the future.

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In reflecting on my own process and learning through this week’s blogging experience, my mind keeps coming back to something Seth Godin asks in his TEDX Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams: On the future of education & what we can do about it, which admittedly I just recently watched for the first time. Besides everything he says, one line keeps resonating with me: 

Are we asking our kids to collect dots or connect dots?

Yes, we are asking them to connect the dots. Every time we try something like Guided Inquiry or the Question Formulation Technique, we are creating experiences that lead to new connections for our students and for ourselves. But likewise through these approaches, the students are doing the real connecting, thinking, and learning. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thanks for letting me share my own experiences and ideas connected to Guided Inquiry via this blog. I am excited to be a part of this community, and want to stay connected and keep learning with and from you all. I have learned so much from reading and reflecting on the posts already shared, and look forward to what I can read next here in 2018!

-Teresa Diaz

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And so on, and so on, and so on…
A Fresh Take on App Smashing



Identify and Gather

What Makes a Good Question?

The next step was to discuss the validity of questions.  Ground rules were created to encourage students to ask good questions about each other’s presentations, and to move away from a focus on getting the right answers.  We debated open and closed questions, worked on this at home, and then shared good ideas for why open-ended questions are so much more interesting than closed questions.  We have a strict rule that no question is a bad question, but all good questions lead to more questions!  

It was tough for me to take a step back and wait while students took needed time to shift from answer to question.  Initially, they copied each other’s questions, but slowly the conversation opened up to more interesting questions as I role modeled a few of my own questions.  There were a few students who wanted to give answers, but we had to rein ourselves in and come back to the driving questions around ecosystems.  It was definitely a learning curve to move away from the ‘googlable’ answer to understand what we wanted to research further.  

Students were then encouraged to use Pebble Go as a launching base to further their research and examine more about their topic.  Again, they shared their learning using Flipgrid. Some presented beautiful flowcharts, others used the cool iPad app which comes within the Pebble Go, whilst others made their own dioramas or research reports on the biodiversity of ecosystems in British Columbia and beyond.  Again, the focus was on asking questions about the research, as well as learning from the students who were co-teaching their peers.  We touched on the socio-emotional learning as well with questions reflecting how they were feeling as they researched.  Most students enjoyed the process of researching what they wanted to discover.  Some students shared that making their inventions in the first week was difficult because they could not get the right results.  The time taken for producing was perhaps not conducive for further learning.  I had given a framework of one hour per week to work on assignments, but am discovering we may need more time.

Pippa Davies

Director HCS Blended LearningCommons

Heritage Christian Online School

Twitter:  @PippaDavies

The Questions that Drive Me Forward

At the end of the day, there are always more questions than answers and this is what keeps pushing forward to learn more.  Guided Inquiry and Deign Thinking were never intended to work together, but they do have interesting similarities that can be leveraged to benefit each other.  But what are the challenges that present themselves when using these models either together or individually?

The first that comes to my mind is in the process of helping students to find their Third Space.  How do we better connect students with topics that are meaningful to them?  I’ve spent significant time with students who just can’t seem to find that topic that has personal meaning within the curricular domain that we are studying.  I’ve had students who flip flop between projects as they try to find that one design problem them that they really need to solve.  Guided Inquiry certainly has some ideas that support this process through the Open, Immerse and Explore phases and these can be leveraged in or before an Empathy phase in Design Thinking but there always seems to be one or more students who are so connected to the game of school or disconnected from the subject matter that finding Third Space seems to be impossible.  They just want to be told what to do and they will go off and do it.  Give them a hoop, and they will jump through it.  What can we do for them, hopefully without devoting so much time to one or two students that we neglect the rest of the class?

Creating and Prototyping require skills.  There is a second domain of learning that is required for a student to be able to make anything.  We spend years teaching students how to write an essay.  When they are asked to write a paper on topic X, they know what to do, but what happens when we say, “OK, make whatever you want to demonstrate your learning.”  Or if we say, “Here’s the problem.  Make something that solves it.”  We need to structure the Create/Prototype phase in a way that at least helps the student take inventory of what they know how to do so that they can apply the right skills to the problem at hand.  I have had students jump into projects only to find out that they don’t have a clue how to go about what they’ve set out to do.  I’ve also had students hell-bent on presenting something in a way that demonstrates their skills in making in a particular way but is completely ineffective in demonstrating their learning of the topic.  What structures can we put in place or how do we otherwise support these students so they don’t get overwhelmed, lost, or simply default to an essay or powerpoint because that’s the only thing they know how to do?

Finally, where does an inquiry unit really end?  The dream is that a student will become so connected with a topic that there are more questions that come from their research or the product that they build is simply version 1 of a long line of constantly improving versions.  Our assignments turn into their life’s work.  But we don’t have time for that.  We need to move to the next chapter in the textbook or next unit in the curriculum.  How do we support the students when they do get it right in a transformative way?  What can we do to build that next unit so there are opportunities to reflect on their work in different ways and continue to follow their passion?  I know that this is highly situationally dependent and one jurisdiction will be more tightly prescribed in how they move through the content of the course than the next, but isn’t this the Holy Grail of teaching?  Isn’t this what it’s all about?  Once the student does make that meaningful connection, how do we continue to support them to follow their interests as far as they can take them?

I’ve enjoyed sharing my thinking here on the 52 Weeks of Guided Inquiry blog.  I know that I have clarified my thinking in some areas through the act of writing them down for you, and I truly hope that at least one person has got something out of it.  I’d be curious to know what you thought of any or all of the last three posts and would love to continue the conversation here in the comments, via Twitter (@marc_crompton) or even through email (  And if you’re ever in Vancouver, come by the school and we can show you what we’re up to!

Thanks for reading,

Marc Crompton

Teacher Librarian

St George School