Using the Question Formulation Technique to Get Students to Dig Deeper

We all want our students to ask “good” questions and to dig deeper but we also know that this isn’t a skill they often come by naturally.  When faced with a statement or a problem you may hear,

I don’t even know where to start… 
OK, but now tell me what to do…. 

The Question Formulation Technique, or QFT, can help students get past the “I don’t know” roadblock.



According to the Right Question Institute, “The Question Formulation Technique (QFT), created by the Right Question Institute, helps all people create, work with, and use their own questions — building skills for lifelong learning, self-advocacy, and democratic action.”

Basically, it’s a questioning technique that removes hesitation and allows your students to dive right in to the questioning process.

The Benefits are many:

  • All students are heard.
  • There truly is no dumb question, all questions are recorded.
  • Encourages students to think of a question then work with the question later to improve it.
  • Encourages deeper thinking and questioning.
  • Gives a structured, guided way for students to participate and learn.

If you are interested in talking to a faculty member that is using this in their CofC classroom, just let me know.



  1. Create one or more focus statements (NOT questions).  Here’s an example, “The only way to motivate students if through grades.”
  2. Determine time limit for each Round (see below).
  3. Divide into groups of 3-4 people. – Identify one person as your note taker.   
  4. Give the students the rules for producing questions
  5. Ask as many questions as you can.
    • Do not stop to answer, judge, or discuss the questions.
    • Write down every question exactly as it is stated.
    • Change every statement into a question.


  1. Round 1: Produce Your Questions
    • Within a specified time (10 min), students in each group start saying questions (following the rules above).
    • Notetaker writes down every question as it’s said (if it’s a statement the notetaker must remind the team to state it as a question.)
    • You can use a notetaker strategy but you can also use Padlet or Google Docs to allow students to type in their own questions.  If you use this method, still have the students say the questions out loud.
  2. Round 2:  Improve Questions
    • Students work with the questions they produced. This step helps students do high level work with their questions and identify how different types of questions elicit
      different types of information and answers.
    • Questions can be open- or closed-ended: Closed-ended questions can be answered
      with yes, no, or with one word. Open-ended questions require an explanation and cannot be answered with yes, no, or with one word.
    • Categorize questions as closed or open-ended: Students find closed-ended questions and mark them with a “C”. Students find open-ended questions and mark them with an “O”.
    • Discuss the value of each type of question:
      • Students identify advantages & disadvantages of closed-ended questions.
      • Students identify advantages & disadvantages of open-ended questions.
      • Change questions from one type to another: Students change one closed-ended question to open-ended. Students change one open-ended question to closed-ended.
  3. Round 3: Prioritize Questions
    • Prioritization instructions should bring students back to teaching objectives and the plan for using student questions. This step helps students think convergently. The instructor should have select the number of questions they’d like the groups to settle on (example, top 5).
    • The students rank their questions, all of their questions, then select their top most important things they need to know.
  4. Round 4: Discuss Next Steps
    • How will questions be used? Next steps should align with priority instructions. For students, this further contextualizes how their questions will be used.
  5. Round 5: Reflection
    • Students should reflect: • What did you learn? • How can you use what you learned?


Steps of the Question Formulation Technique (QFT)

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