Ask questions

What is one essential skill that can facilitate all learning? What can we do in order to learn more, produce new ideas and generate creative solutions? We should ask questions. [1]

Learning by asking questions, also know as the Question Formulation Technique is a great addition to the Engineering Design Process. The folks at the Right Question Institute use it to help people all over the world solve problems in education, healthcare, voter education to come up with innovative workable solutions.

Design Challenge : Formulate the questions first

By starting with the Question Focus statement and some basic rules for generating questions, you can learn a lot about the problem by asking questions. Any questions! The more questions, the better. Now, roll that into the Engineering Design Process, and look at your questions. What would be better questions? Are there groups of questions around a topic? What action can be taken to answer some of the important priority questions? What did you learn in this process?

  • What? (Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem)
    The Question Focus is a statement about the challenge. The Rules for Producing Questions are part of this strategy for learning and problem solving. This process will take some practice.
  • So What? (Imagine, brainstorm, explore)
    Following the Rules for Producing Questions, ask questions, lots of them. Just write them down without discussion or solutions. Everything you record should be a question, so change any statements into questions.
  • Now what? (Plan, design)
    Categorize questions listed as closed-ended (Yes or No answer), or open-ended. Discuss the questions and switch some from one type to the other. Prioritize the questions. To design your solution, some questions need to be answered to get going toward your solution. Start by picking 3. Think about how you picked the highest priority questions. If you can, discuss your questions and choices with others.
  • Do It (Create, try it out)
    Based on your questions and your priorities, these are your next steps. This will get you started.
  • If this then what? (Improve, make it better)
    Reflection – think about your questions. What did you learn from this?

Engineering vocabulary, concepts
Question Formulation Technique

Show and Tell
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • create a Question Focus statement for the challenge you are going to work on. This could be a picture, diagram or video.
  • make lists of questions, open- and closed- question categories, prioritized questions, and notes about the prioritization process

Learn more…

  • Right Question Institute – the home of the Question Formulation Technique. This site focuses on teaching teachers about the technique.