Design-Based Teaching

The Problem-Based Question (Part 1)

In the twelve years I spent in the classroom, my students participated in a variety of buzzword worthy creative lesson plans and student-led activities: Project-based learning, Genius Hour, and 20Time. Just to name a few. All of these lesson plans had several common goals, such as learning content-specific standards or allowing students the opportunity to develop a “student choice” project. Yet, after many years of experimenting with these types of lesson plans and activities, I found myself thinking: “Is it enough?”

I always felt like there was something missing from these types of student-led activities that were implemented in my classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that any of the activities were not beneficial – it just wasn’t exactly what I was looking to have my students accomplish. The level of “real-worldness” was not what I felt like it should be. Something was missing…and I couldn’t place my finger on it.

Until now.

My students were not developing a true, problem-based question. A question that would be the foundation of all of their work. A question that would drive their learning while capturing their interest and relating to the real-world.

Perhaps you find yourself thinking, ”Wait, isn’t that the same as an essential question? I already do this!” However, there is a significant difference between an essential question and a problem-based question.

An essential question is a grade level appropriate question that is strongly driven by the content.

Some examples could include:

  • How is the circumference and area of a circle calculated?
  • How did the effects of World War 1 lead to World War 2?
  • How can a writer increase the tension in a piece of work?

These are great examples of essential questions and they have a time and place in the classroom. However, if I want to truly push my students to dive deeper and solve real-world problems, then I need a question that they care about answering.

So, I started asking myself – how can I develop AND help my students develop deeper questions that were truly centered on solving real-world problems and focused on student interest?  How do we develop something beyond the essential question?

Well…that is a question to be answered in next week’s blog post!  Stay tuned for Part 2! 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Problem-Based Question (Part 1)

    1. I love Socratic questioning! This was a huge part of my classroom when I was teaching students. In my classroom, students regularly participated in socratic questioning through tutorial groups and socratic seminars.

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