The Question Formulation Technique (QFT) developed by the Right Question Institute is both a simple, practical teaching technique and a philosophy of learning that empowers ALL learners to discover questions for themselves.
Asking good questions is a vital skill that takes time and much practice to master. Most classes can learn the clear steps in a couple of dedicated class periods. (See graphic summary below.) Once learned, the QFT helps diverse learners press investigations for greater depth and meaning. Incorporate question-generation about primary sources at every opportunity.
There are just four rules: 1) Ask as many questions as you can. 2) Do not stop to discuss, judge or answer. 3) Record exactly as stated. 4) Change statements into questions.
However, students with weak verbal skills or limited English may require additional preparation and repetition to master the technique. Pre-teach essential vocabulary. Provide visual cues for the procedures. Have a small group model the process for the class. Offer sentence stems in question form. Provide many examples of closed and open-ended questions on familiar topics. Allow extra time for students to generate questions. Explicitly teach roles of recorder, process monitor, and reporter.
The Right Question Institute captured useful tips from dozens of veteran practitioners of the QFT who told how they use the method with Students with Disabilities and with English Learners.
"Don't correct for grammar or spelling during the process of producing questions; if necessary, have students go back and edit the next day or as part of next steps." - One of many tips from teachers in, "Using the QFT - Special Student Populations".
Links to multimedia on the QFT:
- 'What is IEP?': Asking Questions to Meet Speech and Language Goals, by Nancy Cohen. Right Question Institute.
- QFT in Special Education - Resources from the Right Question Institute
- Using the QFT - Special Student Populations tips from a diverse group of teachers. (2020).
- Social studies teacher, Joshua Beer, Goshen Lempster Institute, New Hampshire, demonstrates and explains Using the Question Formulation Technique for Summative Assessment. (9:45 mins)
- Introduction to the Question Formulation Technique for Primary Source Learning - Library of Congress Webinar with RQI's Andrew Minigan and Sarah Westbrook - May 6, 2020.
- Dan Rothstein, co-author of Just Make One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, TED Talk (13:40 mins)
- RQI YouTube channel offers multiple useful videos.
- Remote Learning tools using the QFT.
- Civics lesson Taking It to the Streets: Global Protests During the Pandemic provides a contemporary primary source example from the Brown University Teaching with the News program.