DIY: Creating Driving Questions

Engage! Learning | Designer Resources

Driving Questions are...

  1. Open-ended (cannot use Google to answer)
  2. Real (not real-world hypothetical)
  3. Standards-Based (no time wasted on good projects that are not aligned)


Writing a Driving Question

Questions to ask for Creating Driving Questions

  • Which standards do the students need to master in this unit/time frame?
  • Who uses this content knowledge/skill in the world?
  • How is this content knowledge/skill applied in business? Daily life? Living problems?
  • What real problem could students solve using these skills or content knowledge?
  • How could this knowledge/skill be helpful to students now (besides getting a grade or passing a test)?


Test your Knowledge!

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Which of the following are Driving Questions?

  1. How will we create a design that uses patterns of geometric shapes from the materials you choose, as well as patterns of plants to be used in the flowerbeds that we are presenting to the city?
  2. Compare the Civil war and World War II and the effects of each on America.
  3. How far is it from Ft. Worth, Texas to Ardmore, OK? Use kilometers.
  4. How can we persuade teachers to design lessons to reach struggling learners that will result in a significant increase in student performance (specifically Economically disadvantaged and English Language Learners)?
  5. Create a diorama of a specific important historical monument. Choose from the following: Mount Rushmore, Washington Monument, United States Capitol Building, the Pentagon, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, or The White House.
  6. What design is best to keep an egg from cracking when dropped from a certain height?

Real application of content/skills in TEKS: A Key to Student Engagement!

Driving questions make the real connection between standards/TEKS and how skills/content can be applied in real life. Giving students the end application before “teaching them the background” establishes a need to know the knowledge/skills you were going to teach and allows them to take ownership and be a more active part of the teaching and learning process because they can direct their own learning based on individual needs to get to the end. In traditional school, students are just doing what the teacher tells them that day to get the grade or do well on the test. PBL is designed to help students own their own learning because they can see relevance! The following are some tips on finding relevance in each subject area and some example driving questions from your own peers.


Math: specific problems with multiple strategies for solving a real-life situation (can be found in enrichment problems in text and other resources)

· Example: What is the minimum amount of aluminum needed to create a cistern for rainwater harvesting given a volume of 25 cu meters? (problem-based)

· Example: How can we re-design the auto body shop/the library to address all our needs? What mural design works best for the gym wall?


History: teaching others about history or use lessons from the past to solve a current event/issue

· Example: How can we teach another class/another school/another grade level/the community about…?

· Example: How can we create a revolution in American education?


Social Studies: use understanding of geography, culture, government, economics, etc. to make decisions

· Example: How can we reduce human trafficking in our country?

· Example: How can we create a public service announcement promoting the Bill of Rights?


Science: use understanding of scientific principles and systems to solve real problems

· Example: What design is best to keep an egg from cracking when dropped from a certain height? (problem-based)

· Example: What can we design to lessen the environmental impact of carbon dioxide emissions?


English/LOTE: use skills of writing/reading/speaking/listening to learn, make decisions and communicate

· Example: How can we persuade Ms. Torres to change the bell system?

· Example: How can we entertain our peers/other classes/younger students/our community/our parents using poetic devices/the techniques of figurative language/drama/short stories, etc?


PE/Fine Arts: performance-based courses are already PBL if students have input/choice, know the end result and base daily acquisition of skills on individual “need to knows” to get to end result in a self-directed manner

· Example: How can we become better musicians/dancers/athletes, etc. based on …criteria?

· Example: How can we entertain our community/parents/peers, etc?


CTE: use acquisition of skills to apply to a real situation or product just like experts in the career field; have input/choice and know the end result and base daily acquisition of skills on individual “need to knows” to get to end result in a self-directed manner

· Example: How can we improve customer service?

· Example: How do we take apart, fix, and put back together an engine starter?

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Answers to the Test:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. No
  4. Yes
  5. No
  6. Yes