I recently had a great conversation with Geoff Krall (New Tech math coach, writer of the “Emergent Math” blog) about projects and driving questions. I used to dismiss driving questions as something to check off, and they weren’t something I spent a lot of time thinking about when I created projects.
Now I think that was a mistake. I think that if I had spent more time on those driving questions I would have ended up with a clearer sense of the what and the why of my projects. And I would have done a better job of making my projects meaningful to my students.
In one of my classes, focused on literacy development, students read short stories in literature circles and then wrote their own, publishing them as well as entering the short stories into a local competition for young adults. If you’d asked me at the time, I would have said my driving question was something like, “How can we write good short stories that get published and win contests?” But that’s both superficial and not particularly meaningful. Getting published is a nice perk, but why stories are so entertaining and so central to our experience of being human matters a lot more. Instead, I could have asked “Why are people obsessed with stories, and how can we make people obsessed with ours?” Or, “Are we storytelling animals? Why should we tell our own stories?”
I think those initial driving questions I wrote so quickly focused on what and how, with a light sprinkling of why. But if I had done a little more thinking about the real why- the real reason I was asking students to do this work and delve into these standards- I would have crafted driving questions that made the work a lot more meaningful.
At New Tech Network, we think a lot about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and starting with the “why.” Seems like that might work for driving questions too.