ESC11 - Project Based Learning

The driving question captures the heart of the project by providing purpose using clear and compelling language. Driving questions (also called compelling questions) pose simply stated real world dilemmas. They pose predicaments that students find interesting and actually want to answer. The question drives students to discuss, inquire, and investigate the topic. It should push them toward a production or solution. In the process of investigating the question and sharing their answers, students learn important content and skills."

from Tony Vincent at

The most important thing about the driving question is that when students develop a solution to the question, they fulfill the learning goals for the unit.

For the teacher, the compelling question:

  • starts and focuses the inquiry
  • captures and communicates the purpose of the project
  • reframes standards so that they are "real"

For the student, the compelling question:

  • creates interest and a feeling of challenge
    so that even the most reluctant student thinks, "Hmmm, I guess that sounds kinda cool."
  • guides the project work
    so that everything the students do helps them answer the question.
  • helps them answer their question, "Why are we doing this?"

~from Andrew Miller

Characteristics of Effective Compelling Questions

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A checklist from Tony Vincent to help refine your guiding question.

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Compelling Question Cheat Sheet

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