Monday, January 25, 2010

Guiding Question for PBL

I have done extensive research on PBL and have found a fabulous site that offers many resources such as videos, articles, helpful downloads, etc. from Buck Institute for Education: Project Based Learning for the 21st Century. I have had my boys to brainstorm possible questions that could serve as a guiding or driving question for further investigation of this space mission/aviation project. The decision to use a broader question vs. a narrow one would allow the boys to not be limited in their research but could go in an unexpected direction according to the questions formulated. I am not exactly sure if I am making the right decision for 5th graders, but I did find an excellent web site that clearly defines what a driving/guiding question should look like.

Effective Driving Questions:

Driving questions are also called essential questions, project questions, and umbrella questions. Effective driving questions include the following features:

1. Are open-ended. Driving questions lead to debate and discussion, and therefore, are motivating to students.

2. Are objective. Driving questions do not imply whether something is good or bad, better or worse.

3. Focus and drive the project. Students use the question as a springboard to formulate their own questions. All learning and research in the project are geared toward answering the driving question.

4. Focus on key understandings. Generally each project will have about five overarching ideas; the driving question subsumes all of them.

5. Are answerable. With diligence and dedication, students are able to answer the driving question. While it should not be an easy process, it should be manageable.

6. Require research, investigation, and reflection. Driving questions may have yes-or-no answers; however, your students need to support their answers with the research and knowledge they have acquired throughout the project.

7. Call on a student's previous knowledge and help students apply their learning to new situations.

8. Link basic skills and concepts to students' lives and the real world. Students are more motivated and involved when the topic they are studying is relevant to their lives and to the real world.

9. Integrate standards from a variety of disciplines. Interdisciplinary lesson plans promote teamwork among colleagues and encourage students to make connections between disciplines.

10. Encourage multiple approaches to problem solving. Driving questions allow for more than one way to solve a problem and express the solution.


  1. I'm fairly new to PBL and would really like to see examples for English, particularly poetry. Any ideas where I might find a bank of examples? Thanks.

  2. Abena,
    You have to start with the end in mind. What is it that you want the students to accomplish? PBL always involves one guiding question that the students try to answer. I would love to help in any way that I can. Feel free to email me at if you need further assistance or guidance.