How to Brainstorm, Ask and Refine Questions

Students Ask Questions

A natural next step after messing about is to ask questions. Lots of questions. Students usually begin to ask questions while they are observing. Frequently, they refine those questions as they make more observations and as they find and synthesize information.

How Can You Help With Questions and The Driving Question

The teacher plays a critical role in helping students develop meaningful and worthwhile questions that will help them learn important curricular content. The teacher is the curriculum leader, guiding and selecting the driving question for the projects and who supports the selection of the phenomena that students will explore.

How To Do It

  • Help students set up their experimental notebook with two columns: initial observations and questions
  • Provide students with question stems, serving as cognitive supports and focus students’ questions
  • Direct students to ask feasible questions
  • Direct students to ask ethical questions
  • Introduce students to the different types of questions, such as, informational, descriptive, relational, cause and effect, and driving questions
  • Train students to brainstorm effectively
  • Instruct students to vote on the driving question

How to Develop a Driving Question

Find out how to develop a driving question in our special article dedicated to driving questions: Understanding Driving Questions

How To Come Up With A Hypothesis And Make Predictions

Hypotheses are questions stated in testable form that relate how the independent variable affects the dependent variable. Students can design an experiment that will either give support for a question or refute a question. Such a question becomes a hypothesis. Making hypotheses is an intellectual skill that can be developed over time. In elementary you can help students ask observable questions and in upper elementary and middle school, you can help students formulating hypotheses from their questions.

How To Do It

  1. Have students list their questions
  2. Have students write tentative hypotheses and decide if these are testable by coming up with ways to test them
  3. Have students brainstorm about students suggested questions
  4. Based on class feedback and your own, have students write revised hypotheses
  5. As the project progresses, students may end up modifying their questions and hypotheses

You can also delve deep into how to come up with a driving question by checking out The Driving Question Methodology section.

How To Make Predictions

Predictions are what students think might happen. Students make predictions based on previous experiences, knowledge and observations they are exploring.

How To Do It

  1. Have each child in a team make their own predictions
  2. Share the predictions with the team
  3. Have the team brainstorm about the suggested predictions
  4. Give team members an opportunity to comment on their predictions, giving reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the other predictions
  5. Ask the team to generate team predictions, while protecting each student’s right to dissent from the group prediction

How To Do Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a creative group problem-solving and decision-making technique. It involves gathering a group of students together to generate ideas and solutions around a specific area of interest. The key principles of brainstorming include:

  1. Deferring Judgment: No criticism or evaluation of ideas during the brainstorming session. This encourages open and uninhibited exploration of possibilities.
  2. Encouraging Wild Ideas: All ideas, no matter how outlandish, are welcomed. Often, the most creative solutions come from the most unexpected suggestions.
  3. Quantity Over Quality: The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible. It is believed that a high quantity of ideas increases the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  4. Combining and Improving Ideas: Building on or combining ideas can lead to better and more refined solutions.

The teacher guides the session, ensuring that the brainstorming rules are followed and that all participants have an opportunity to contribute. The outcome of a brainstorming session is a diverse set of ideas, which can then be evaluated and refined in subsequent stages of the problem-solving process.