Driving Questions and PBL: crafting your own KADQ

Driving Questions and PBL: crafting your own KADQ

Driving questions are an important part of Project Based Learning and just as there are infinite possibilities for driving questions in the world, there are many pieces of advice telling you the “right” way to craft them. I like what a lot of folks say. In particular, I have shared Andrew Miller’s blog posts in my workshops (found here and here) for folks who’ve had questions. I simply like what he had to say.PBL Online Course, Project Based Learning, Ginger Lewman

However, just in all the PBL I do with students or with adult learners, I refuse to deal in absolutes…most of the time. I believe there are many degrees along the continuum of PBL and each educator should look at who they are, who their kids are, what they need, what they want, and what they’re ready for when designing a PBL challenge. Anyone who tells you there’s one way to do PBL “right” is, quite simply, mistaken. So today, let’s tackle the elusive Driving Question — or as I’m calling it, the KADQ — pronounced kay-dee-queue.

A KADQ is a Kick Ass Driving Question. One that when paired with a Kick Ass Launch will leave your kids near-breathless, wide-eyed, and wondering.

And if you can’t stand seeing the words Kick Ass any further, it’s ok. From here out, you can just call it a KADQ – kay-dee-queue.

First, let’s all take a moment and recognize that any driving question is difficult to write. It’s not a formula to follow. It’s complicated by realities of kids, time, content, and, well, life. So if you’re not perfect at it, welcome to the club. Neither am I. Nor will I pretend to be. Ever. I’m just still working on getting better, even after having written literally HUNDREDS of them. You’d think I’d be better already, but that just goes to show you how complicated they can be. The struggle is real. And anyone who thinks it’s not is lying. Or wrong. Maybe.

So recognizing we’re a work in progress, let me drop some hopefully helpful truth:

It’s ok to start with your content smelling a little bit more like school than “real world.” Yeah, I said it. We’re on a continuum. Get over it. If you’re farther along, good for you. Keep looking forward. Now for the the rest of us still learning…

Many of us feel the pressure of school realities and boy do I understand that on a personal basis. So I’m giving you permission to make your PBL a challenge or a question that pertains to something your kids need to know for your class content. We can still practice “real world” with skills inside this space. In the process, we’re looking at our content through our kids’ eyes. What will hook them? What’s truly interesting — for a kid — about this topic? Or how is this topic connected to something interesting?

Once you know that connection, then the rest of it is cake … fruitcake maybe because it’s still heavy and dense. But cake.Driving questions for PBL

Oh, “real world” and “authentic people — are you still here? yeah? Ok, so this part is for you: once we get used to a PBL process that smells a bit like school, but where kids are learning by doing (not learning and then doing, which is not PBL); where kids are enjoying true voice and choice; where we, as teachers, are learning how to connect our content to something meaningful for kids; and where we’re bringing in outside learning to our 4-walled classroom, then we might be ready to look to the world’s problems and ask kids to create their own driving questions. Like the PBL gurus say we need to do on day 1.

I say it’s ok to wade into the water and learn to swim, rather than jump head first into the deep end. So it’s ok to start with PBL that’s a bit schooly, knowing we’ll eventually move to that PBL that doesn’t seem so much like school, but that also carries terrific learning with it.

So now, with all that disclaimer out of the way, what about our KADQ’s? Let’s go!

Great KADQ’s are what helps your kids dive deeply into their learning. And they are actionable. Highly actionable.
They’re asking kids…

  • to solve something.
  • to build something.
  • to answer BIG un-Googleable question.
  • to solve a big and/or real problem in the world.
  • to practice being someone else.
  • to practice being someone in a specific career.
  • to be something other than what they are.
  • to prove that something un/known is right.
  • to prove that something un/known is wrong.
  • to save lives.
  • to design something.
  • to invent something.
  • to travel back in time.
  • to solve a science problem.
  • to tell the story.
  • to make the world a better place for a specific segment of the population.

A KADQ might…

  • not be solvable.
  • be short (a sentence) & uncomplicated (not overwrought or overthought).
  • be written in plain language.
  • take the place of “learning objectives” on the board.
  • help kids understand the relevance and importance of their learning.

Want to see some driving questions in action? Check ’em out! 

With our launch, we tell a story or lay out a scenario (real or imagined) that gets kids’ juices flowing. That story is designed to amp kids’ imaginations up. To create an on-ramp to the topic and a personal connection…and most importantly, funnel their attention and engagement to the KADQ. And the KADQ takes over at that point and drives the learning.

Sounds simple, right? Like cake. Fruitcake. Heavy and dense.

Now all we have to do is match the launch and the KADQ with our personalities, our kids, and our content. What will give us our biggest bang? What will hook our kids deep? And how can I hang my content on this captured student engagement without wearing the kids out with too much content? After all, we’re trying to get our learning beyond the 4 walls of school into the world, right? Opt for smelling less like school than more.

I know this is easier said than done. But I can help. Want to learn more about the daily realities of PBL and how to build your own PBL classroom? We have a couple online courses starting soon! Click here to ensure you’re notified of their launch!


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Written by GingerLewman

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