PBL: Writing a Driving Question

It all stems from a driving question

Google isn’t always the answer. Not when you want students to think critically and grapple with a challenging or thought provoking question or concept. The essential or driving question that fuels a problem-based learning experience must take students on a journey that cannot end before it begins – which is where most directed or single-answer questions go to die. If students can answer yes or no, or Google can give them all they need in one perfectly crafted search query then, the question being posed is not a driving question.

A driving question allows the learner to be challenged with an experience that will take multiple activities or experiences to discover the open-ended answers. It is important to keep students interested so it must be an engaging question. It should obvious align itself to learning goals and standards as well.

As I work to develop my PBL “Discovering Flight” for 1st-grade students, I have crafted a driving question which attempts to include the necessary components of a successful driving question and sub-questions.

Driving Question: How and why do we use flight in our community to make our lives better?


What is flight?
What items or things can fly? Living or non-living?
Why do things fly?
Where does the power of flight come from?
What causes things to fly?
How did humans get involved with flight?
What is the history of flight?
How would the world be different if there was no flight?
How has flying changed and improved over time?
What possibilities does flight have for the future?

My current driving question is open-ended and definitely cannot be answered with a simple Google search. It gets students to tackle many sub-questions in order to attempt to answer the driving questions. The driving question will interest students as it gets them to look into their own community as well as meet with a specialist (pilot) and take a field trip. Students will be interested in the unit texts and science experiences with flight.  This driving question is aligned with learning goals as it asks that student collaborate, read, write, listen, speak, experiment and explore. The sub-questions are laid out purposefully to guide students to understand all of the individual components of the driving question and all the components of flight, flight history and flight implications.  I look forward to further development of this project and look forward to feedback!



BIE Webinar – “Driving Questions: What is it?”



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