Taken from: Traver, R. (March, 1998). What is a good guiding question? Educational Leadership, p. 70-73.
DEFINITION: “A guiding question is the fundamental query that directs the search for understanding. Everything in the curriculum is studied for the purpose of answering it.” Guiding questions help provide focus and coherence for units of study.
- Good guiding questions are open-ended yet focus inquiry on a specific topic.
- Guiding questions are non-judgmental, but answering them requires high-level cognitive work.
- Good guiding questions contain emotive force and intellectual bite.
- Guiding questions are succinct. They contain few words but demand a lot.
ADVICE FOR DEVELOPING GOOD GUIDING QUESTIONS:
- Determine the theme or concept you want students to explore
- Brainstorm a list of questions you believe might cause the students to think about the topic but that don’t dictate conclusions or limit possible directions of investigation. Wait to evaluate and refine the list until you have several possibilities.
- If the unit is multi-disciplinary, the question must allow for multiple avenues and perspectives.
- Consider the six queries that newspapers answer: who, what , when, where, how, and why.
SAMPLE GUIDING QUESTIONS FOR PARTICULAR CONTENT AREAS:
- Environmental Studies: Who will survive? or, What is waste?
- History and Cultural Studies: Whose America is It? What makes an American self? What is worth fighting for?
- Physics: Where do waves come from?
- Health: What is health?
- Civics: When are laws fair?
- Education: Can we have equity and excellence in public education?
SAMPLE INTEGRATION ACROSS CURRICULAR AREAS:
Question: Who will survive? Each content area provides avenues for students to develop answers to this question.
- English – Novels, essays, and poems that explore how American culture values some organisms more than others are read and analyzed.
- Political Science – Students read and discuss The Endangered Species Act as a political document.
- Math – The professor has students explore exponential rates of expansion and decay to describe changes in populations of plants and animals.
- Biology – The focus is on the ecology and genetics of plants and on biodiversity.
- Foreign Language – The issues are explored in a different language from a different cultural perspective.