PBL Insights

Creating Strong Questions

Posted by Jennifer Williams


As part of creating strong projects, students need to develop thought-provoking questions that encourage deep thinking. To assist our students at Integrated Arts Academy (IAA) with this process, we use the Question Matrix. The Question Matrix guides students in creating questions that require more thought and research. We require students to have a driving question and four supporting questions (aka guiding questions) . The driving question should be one that encompasses the entire project and will show the big picture. The supporting questions are those that need to be answered to successfully answer the driving question. Students develop their thought-provoking questions by sliding across and down the Question Matrix.

The further across and down students move in the Question Matrix, the more involved the questions become. For example, a question such as “What is the formula for the area of a kite?” would be a simplistic and easy to find the answer. However, if we slide across and down the Question Matrix we could create the more complex question “How might the area of a kite influence how long it stays in the air and the height it reaches?” The second question allows students to not only find out the formula for the area of a kite, but also apply it using prototypes and testing. Students get to create models and see how the area affects the flight of a kite.

We have the Question Matrix linked in our Project Foundry Project Request Form for students to quickly reference as they are writing up their project proposals. Teachers also have printed copies posted in their rooms to remind students of the complexity of questions that are expected in their projects. Another way that the question matrix can be used is to have some laminated copies that students can write on with dry erase markers as they brainstorm their project idea and the questions they want to answer. The Question Matrix is a great tool for getting students to challenge themselves and their level of thinking.