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Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions


Rothstein, Dan, and Luz Santana. Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions. Harvard Education Press, 2011.


Rothstein and Santana piece together several sophisticated layers of thinking in one very structured, yet open process to help students ask their own questions through teaching and learning The Question Formulation Technique (QFT). They describe the method as a means to help students frame their own thinking and their own questions as a necessary function inside and outside of the classroom.

They define the QFT process right away and then break down the steps throughout the book. The first step is where the teacher does the heavy lifting, which is choosing the question focus, or stimulus to get students to start asking questions. The stimulus is directly tied to learning objectives, from beginning a new unit to preparing for a project. There are specific supports for educators on how to create a question focus which lead directly into how to have students start asking their own questions in a collaborative space. Not only do students ask all of the questions in the QFT, they learn about different types of questions and the information they can get from them, they all have ownership over the process, and they are expected to participate fully in the learning process.

From there, educators support students in prioritizing their questions, facilitate discussion among small groups, and sharing out to the whole class. Students drive their learning all the way through the purpose for asking questions in the first place,which is directly tied to learning objectives. By the time they finish the process, they have done the hard work of thinking, collaborating, discussing, prioritizing, sharing, and reflecting. The final chapters include testimony from teachers and students on how the method has helped and changed their teaching and learning.

Classroom Application

For interested educators, the most helpful parts of the book will be the descriptions on how to facilitate the QFT-- especially on how to establish a question focus, how to help facilitate students asking their own questions with a nod to potential stumbling blocks (and what to do if they come up), and the case studies of how the QFT has been used in many different classroom contexts. The process seems to be a structured method for teaching and promoting meaningful collaboration and discussion in small and large groups while having the students work as hard as the teacher.