How many times as a parent have you asked your student what they are working on in school, only to receive “nothing” as a response?
Or, when prompting your learner to let you know what they learned during their 7 hours at school, they aren’t totally sure. “I don’t know” is their only answer.
One of the best attributes of project-based learning is that we can go deep on a topic. That depth is typically created by something called a driving question. Just like us adults spend a considerable amount of our days working through one problem or completing a refined set of tasks, students in a PBL or a Deeper Learning school may work through answering a few, well crafted questions.
Take for example the question, to what extent has technology improved and diminished our lives compared to previous generations?
We call that a driving question, because it is meant to drive a student’s learning. In order to have a thoughtful response that can be articulated by the student, they will need to go deep in their research. They will need to have an understanding of the development of a technology during a set period of time, over the course of a generation. They will have to make a call on whether or not their own lives have been improved based on the continued innovation of a particular technology after learning about the costs and benefits of refining that technology and they will need to communicate that opinion to the larger community.
While not every student working through answering that question will fall in love with wrestling with that issue, many will find that approach more captivating than memorizing random facts and therefore may be something they want to share.
If you are a parent of a student that attends a Deeper Learning or a PBL school, familiarizing yourself with the driving questions your student is working through can be an excellent in road for figuring out not only what they did during the day, but also what they think and feel about a certain topic. Knowing their driving questions can also help you have authentic conversations around their education.
The next time you ask your student what they did during the day and they can’t think of anything, follow up by asking them what driving questions they are trying to answer. You might be surprised at what inspires curiosity within them and some of the insights they possess around their driving questions.