Experiential Exercises

Research Motivation – An in class exercise

Do your students ever moan and grumble about research projects?  Do you occasionally put them into teams for research projects?  Do your students perhaps not seem to grasp the importance of inquiry?

If so, I’d like to share an exercise with you that has proven time and time again to get students not only working together on a research question, but excited about pursuing it.

I cannot credit myself with creating this exercise, but from what I understand, it is not an exercise normally used in higher education.  I have found it extremely useful as a ‘jumping off point’ for college students about to pursue a research project.

The exercise is called the Question Formulation Technique and it was created by some brilliant people at the Right Question Institute.  The key to making this technique work with college students is creating the (as they call it) Qfocus statement.

I have done this exercise many times and I have the students write reflection papers about their experience with it.  I have yet to have a student not be enlightened by this exercise.

Essentially, what the students do is formulate as many questions as they can around what is called a Qfocus statement. They have 15 minutes to do this a group. I have found groups of 3-5 are ideal.  Then, the groups assess each question as either open or closed questions.  This is fun because often students do not really understand the difference.  I normally go around and coach groups at this point.

The groups then are asked to turn any closed question into an open question and vise versa.  Here, they really get into it and realize the difference between the two.  Once they have done this (again, with my coaching), I ask them to choose what they believe to be their top 3 most important questions. We then go around the room and share the questions.

I mainly teach entrepreneurship classes, so most often, the students are exploring their own products or services.  The statement I use normally has to do with product development success.  For example:

– Product development success requires talking to the potential customer.

The students often come up with questions around resources, customer feedback, development stages, feasibility, distribution… ALL of the issues related to product development.  Then, as the class progresses through the semester, I bring back in their questions and we talk about whether they are really asking these questions or not.  Because the questions were generated by the students, the realizations they come to are that much more impactful.

However, this Qfocus statement could be used in any discipline.

For more information on this technique, including the PowerPoint slides to conduct the exercise, teaching notes, and a quick overview, you can sign up for free at: http://rightquestion.org/educators/resources/

P.S. – I am not affiliated in any way with the Right Question Institute. I just love their approach!  Hope it helps you in your journey.

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