Too often, teachers tell students exactly what they’ll be learning instead of guiding students with questions. Essential questions for PBL create authentic learning scenarios to engage, motivate, and help students guide themselves. Good questions help you provide a purpose for learning so that you never hear students say “why are we doing this?”
The most engaging questions are open-ended and require investigation or research in order to answer. They also give students choice by allowing them to align their learning with their own passions and interests. Essential questions, or driving questions, are a key element of project-based learning, so we’ve outlined 14 essential question stems to help you craft the most engaging PBL essential questions.
1. How can ______ improve _______?
How can studying flags improve our understanding of communities around the world?
How can robotics improve the healthcare industry?
How can access to clean water improve communities in developing nations?
2. How can _______ be applied to ________?
How can geometry skills be applied to cartography?
How can economics be applied in our daily lives?
How can ethics be applied to solve environmental problems?
3. How can _______ change ________?
How can individuals change their communities?
How can fashion change culture?
How can the human behavior change the environment?
4. How would you design a new _______?
How would you design a new school?
How would you design a new system to purify water?
How would you design a new flag for your community?
5. How does _________ affect __________?
How does immigration affect communities around the world?
How does fake news affect our community?
How does food affect our daily lives?
6. What impact did/does __________ have on ________?
What impact did humans have on the environment during the 20th century?
What impact does war have on art?
What impact did the media have on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election?
7. What makes a good/effective _________?
What makes a good flag?
What makes an effective school?
What makes an effective robot?
8. How do/does __________ impact my community?
How does racism impact my community?
How does the food grown in our region impact what people eat?
How does geography impact my community?
9. What is the relationship between _________ and ___________?
What is the relationship between geometry and architecture?
What is the relationship between economics and history?
What is the relationship between transportation and trade?
10. What would __________ be without __________?
What would our school be without classrooms?
What would the Earth’s climate be like without the atmosphere?
What would the world be without art?
11. If you were in charge of ____________, what would you change?
If you were in charge of our school, what would you change?
If you were in charge of our national parks, what would you change?
If you were in charge of Facebook, what would you change?
12. How can you use __________ to inspire ________?
How can you use poetry to inspire change?
How can you use storytelling to inspire people take better care of the environment?
How can you use science to inspire people to eat healthier food?
13. What if _______________?
What if you could go back in time, what would you change?
What if America did not have a public school system?
What if the world lost the internet for one year?
14. How might your community change if ______________?
How might your community change if it were twice as big?
How might your community change if it rained everyday for a year?
How might your community change if every person were given $1 million?
Seeing the different ways students approach an essential question is one of the most rewarding parts of project-based learning, and you’ll get to learn a lot about the learners in your class! Engage students through project-based learning by providing them with great PBL essential questions, then watch them dive in and take control of their own learning.
How to Write Effective Driving Questions for Project-Based Learning
Driving Questions in Project-Based Learning