Lee Garrett

A teaching and learning journey through PE


QFT makes it’s debut

Ever since I read @taitcoles’ blog post on the Question Formulation Technique here, I have been intrigued as to the power of students generating their own questions through this method. More information and resources on the use of QFT can be found at rightquestion.org

So here is my attempt, thoughts and findings.

STEP 1. Create a question focus.

My learning objective was to “devise questions to learn the effects of CO2 on the respiration system SO THAT you know how the body controls breathing rate”

The prompt which I used was a simple statement:

The brain uses CO2 to control breathing rate

STEP 2. Produce your own questions.

The students had to write down as many questions as they could and write them down as it was said. Any statements were changed to questions.

After a quick example, the students produced their questions. Once they got to a point where progress on the questions slowed, we related back to the idea of SOLO Taxonomy and the use of the multistructural building blocks to build up knowledge and understanding. This short discussion gave a few more ideas.

STEP 3. Improve your questions

The students then categorised each question either open or closed and then discussed as a group the advantages and disadvantages of each type of question. What was realised was that the majority of the starting verbs of the questions began with What making it a bit too vague. This gave me the cue to relate to Blooms Taxonomy and the associated verbs for questioning. They began to scribble out the what and write explain, describe, recall etc. It was evident that this helped with catergorising the questions and they were then asked to change the open questions to closed and visa versa.

STEP 4. Prioritise your questions

The 3 most important questions had to be chosen and again discuss why the questions were chosen. Responses here centered the use of carbon dioxide, the use of the brain and the mechanics of breathing.

STEP 5. Next Steps

How are you going to use the questions? How will it make you learn more? How will it make you learn better? I must admit at this stage, I felt a little apprehensive about this method. Yes the students were generating some great questions but it almost felt like they were walking into a room, pitch black with no lights on. I allowed the students to use a text book to extract the answers needed for their questions. One response was, “Sir, is this right?” When I looked at the work, was it right? Indeed, absolutely bang on! All the key terms were used, and it was very concise and accurate. When I looked at another students work, again, very good but through discussion with him, he was still unsure.

I had an activity ready and waiting which was to rearrange some cards in a sequential order to test if learning had occurred. This formative assessment was useful because those that succeeded could move onto an exam question and those that were still unsure, I very briefly went through a flow chart of the control of breathing. If anything, this was to confirm to those students that what they had questioned themselves and written was actually correct. You could see the relief on their face. Now it was my turn to pounce on the students with questions. I suppose I wanted to make sure no stone was left unturned. I was not disappointed. Independent learning had definitely occurred.

STEP 6. Reflect

There was mixed feelings to start with. A bit slow? Maybe because it was the first attempt at using QFT. Was the question focus too vague? Could I have made it easier by providing some other resource to supplement the statement? Could it be that the students were highly stretched and used unknown thinking skills? Have they ever had to use so much thinking power? After all we do know that spoonfeeding does occur to try and get the best results. Spoonfeeding, I would like to add is not in my vocab!

Questioning is certainly powerful and the QFT provides a helpful structure. This lesson provided a huge amount of independent learning and masses amount of thinking power. There was visible learning, group processing and higher order thinking skills.

Next time :

1) Be more creative of how students will use their questions (make more use of the group processing factor)

2) Consider the use of a more informative question focus to help lead the students into questioning. (A very basic screencast maybe?, an article?)

As a teaching tool goes, this one is powerful if used correctly. I can see how this is used for enquiries and PBL but with a bit of tweaking and reflective feedback from the students this teaching method is one to keep.

I would be more than happy to hear of other examples of QFT in learning new information and any suggestions to progress my use of QFT.