There's A Meeting for That

A Meeting Explores How We Form Questions

The Conference on Best Practices in the Question Formulation Technique helps educators foster critical-thinking skills and self-directed learning among their students.

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Conference on Best Practices in the Question Formulation Technique
July 18–19, 2016
Boston Park Plaza, Boston

Let’s begin with a question: What is the rationale for the QFT? By deliberately teaching students how to first ask questions and then work rigorously with those questions, they develop critical-thinking skills and become more self-directed learners.

With active participation central to its method, it follows that it would be key to RQI’s conference format. “We frequently hear from educators who have been going to conferences for years that this is the best learning experience they’ve had,” said Andrew Minigan, RQI’s education project and research coordinator. “That’s in large part due to the structure of the conference and the dedicated educators who attend, ready to learn the strategy and learn from each other.” For participants, “there’s work to be done.”

PEER LEARNINGJust as the QFT enables students to own their learning, the conference program “honors [participants’] knowledge and experience,” Minigan said. “We learn just as much from educators who have used this strategy as they do from us. We build out space in the program so that educators can collaborate and plan how they will use the QFT to support their teaching and learning goals.” Since Rothstein and Santana’s book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions was published in 2011, “a lot of what we know about the QFT comes from the 200,000 educators using the strategy in innovative ways,” Minigan said. “The conferences reflect emerging lessons and insights from the field of practitioners.”

A LESSON PLANDuring the half-hour “Closing With Metacognition” session at the end of the first day, participants split up into three groups and “collaboratively reflected on the day’s events,” Minigan said. “Reflection is essential for the learning process. We wanted to end the first day in reflection, and really hit the ground running on the second day” with concurrent workshops.

ONE LAST QUESTIONWhat’s the end goal for participants? “We don’t want them to be passive recipients,” Minigan said. “You go to the conference so you can leave ready to apply it to practice, and help students start thinking in questions.”

Questionable Sessions
Organized by Cambridge, Massachusetts–based The Right Question Institute (RQI), the Boston conference — like its sister Midwest and West Coast conferences held this past summer — revolved around the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), and attracted around 100 participants. The QFT is a strategy designed by RQI co-directors Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana that educators can use to teach students how to produce their own questions, improve them, and strategize on how to use them to drive their own learning. Sessions explored best practices for using QFT to cultivate student curiosity.

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.