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
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
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.