What is a guiding question?

“A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.” -Warren Berger

What do Bad Guiding Questions Look Like?

  • "What medical practices were used in the Civil War?"
    • This is easily googleable and does not drive insight. A student could have an answer to this question ready in five minutes.
  • “What did we say was true of all four-sided shapes?”
    • This is what we call a leading question. This is pointing the student to one correct answer.
  • “What did Nietzsche call his idealized version of man?”
    • This is a leading question. Instead, ask something like “What impact did Nietzche’s ideas of the Übermensch, or Overman, have on modern society?”.
  • “Why was the 13th amendment enacted?”
    • This could lead to deeper insight, but there will likely be a one hour investigation instead of 5 hours. A better question would be “What would the United States look like today if the 13th amendment was never enacted?”

What do Good Guiding Questions Look Like?

  • “To what extent does power or the lack of power affect individuals?”
  • “Can you trace where in the universe your body’s elements were first created?”
  • “How can we use our technology to improve the average, healthy body?”
  • “What is happiness, and what is the degree of importance in one’s life?”
  • “Which founding father was least confident in the eventual success of the US?”

Ask yourself, is your guiding question:

  • open-ended?
  • ambitious?
  • focused on a specific topic?
  • non-judgmental?