Crafting Driving Questions

Using proven inquiry strategies to motivate and guide deeper learning.
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Earn Graduate Credit
Graduate-level credit is available for this micro-credential. You can apply for credit through one of our university partners after successfully completing the micro-credential.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

A successful inquiry project starts with questions that are worthy of study and that motivate deeper learning; taking time to refine these driving questions (and their related questions) helps make learning more motivating and productive.

Method Components

Crafting meaningful driving questions is a foundational component of many successful inquiry projects. As students develop driving questions, the teacher leads them through a three-stage process that includes discussion, research and refining, and reflection. This can be done individually, in small groups, or in whole-group instruction.

Qualities of driving questions

  • Address an authentic, real-world challenge, issue, or dilemma that is intriguing or provocative enough for students to want to research possible answers
  • Relate to students' own lives, interests, or communities
  • Are open-ended (can't be answered with a yes or no) and complex, but feasible to research in the time available, and require higher-level thinking skills such as evaluating and synthesizing information
  • Go to the heart of the subject of study, focusing on central issues or controversies central that are often debated by experts in the field and are a frequent topic of media attention
  • Can lead to a presentable call to action, a plan, a campaign, a proposal, or recommendations for how to address the question

Phases of crafting driving questions

  • Discuss driving questions.
    • Introduce and discuss the idea that good questions can drive deep learning and that good driving questions and the processes for finding good answers to them often have similar characteristics, these driving questions and the process for finding good answers, called the inquiry process, are the focus of these learning activities.
  • Conduct preliminary research and refine the driving question.
    • Through initial research, students can clarify and refine the driving question through such activities as:
    • Students make lists of what they already know about the topic under inquiry and share these to get a sense of the collective prior knowledge of the subject area.
    • Students then make a list of what they think they will need to learn to answer the question and which resources they will need to use to come up with potential answers to the question.
    • Students review the initial driving question and discuss how the question can be refined and enriched to make the research project even more interesting and motivating.
  • Reflect on the driving question process.
    • Students review and discuss both their initial and refined driving questions.
    • Students reflect on and summarize the lessons learned in crafting and refining the driving questions to motivate work in their inquiry projects.

Suggested preparation

  • Students list, then discuss, questions they've always wondered about, why these questions are so compelling to them, and why they haven't yet found the answers to these driving questions.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

A clear, specific, relevant, real-world, and intriguing question is essential for motivating student curiosity, engagement, research, and learning throughout the course of a learning project; there are a number of research-proven techniques for crafting these driving questions.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1, 3, and 4 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview questions

(200-word limit for each response)

  • Activity Description: What kind of project activities did you and your students engage in to become more proficient in crafting and refining driving questions to improve learning in a project? Please describe the learning activities and strategies you used.
  • Activity Evaluation: How do you know your students increased their proficiency in crafting driving questions by engaging in the activities, and what evidence did you collect that demonstrates these learning gains?

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

Please submit work examples from two students (writing, audio, images, video, or other products) that demonstrate progress toward the Crafting Driving Questions competency, including such items as examples of initial and refined student-created driving questions, lists of “Need to Learns,” reflections on the value of driving questions, presentations of the results of research on driving questions, or other relevant items.

Part 3. Student reflections

For the two students whose work examples were included above, submit their student-created reflections on the Crafting Driving Questions activities they experienced. (200-word limit for each reflection):

  • How did the driving questions activities help you create more meaningful and motivating questions to research in your project?
  • How did the driving question strategies change your views on the importance of well thought-out questions to keep motivation high in your learning projects?

Part 4. Teacher reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance (200-word limit):

  • What was the impact of engaging your students in the Crafting Driving Questions activity?
  • How will experiencing these project activities shape your daily future teaching practice?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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