Power of the Question


Are your students inquisitive in class? Do they ask enough questions? Do they ask the right questions? Are there ways that you can help students hone their questions and focus on what they really want to know?

Many studies have shown an alarming lack of critical thinking by Americans. And while children from a young age try to satisfy their curiosity by asking why, little curriculum exists to help build students’ questioning skills. Teaching students how and why to ask questions is rarely a part of standard academic lesson plans. Indeed, students are constantly asked to answer questions, but are seldom encouraged to ask their own or taught how to develop thoughtful, articulate and effective questions.

Y-Press alumna Olivia Mozzi, 21, can identify with this:

School curriculum was always more focused on answering questions rather than asking them. No matter what sort of positive spin the teachers tried to put on it, to us as students, asking questions meant that you hadn’t paid attention the first time, you didn’t understand as well as the other students, or something else negative. However, it wasn’t this way at Y-Press. At Y-Press, there was something wrong if you weren’t asking lots of questions.”

Through her experiences at Y-Press, a nonprofit youth-media organization, Olivia was trained in the art of asking questions. Furthermore, Olivia had the opportunity to “ask questions to everyone from youth filmmakers to former gang members to gay youth.”

Olivia and three of her peers wanted to give other kids a similar opportunity and thus, the power-ofthe-question project was born. And veteran journalists were willing to help. In short video clips NPR’s Scott Simon, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and ESPN’s John Sawatsky share what they have learned about questions and their craft.

Then last summer, 10 Indiana teachers collaborated with Y-Press journalists in an IUPUI graduate course. Together, they developed a standards-based curriculum designed to teach middle and high school students how to hone questions and enhance their question-asking skills. The project combines the veteran journalists’ videos with easy to use lesson plans.

We hope that Olivia and her peers’ simple idea to share the importance of teaching students to develop solid questions will be valuable in the classroom and help students focus on what they really want to know.


Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Scott Simon

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

John Sawatsky

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Soledad O’Brien

Power of the Question project from Sygiel Solutions Consulting

Kelly O’Donnell

Thanks to curriculum developers Indianapolis-area teachers Samuel Cavanaugh, Patrick Chambers, Suzette Friar, Jill Gordon, Glenn Nathanael Kosirog (Nate), Dawn Merrill, Eric Shetter, Kimberly Shetter, Heather Stockdell, and Shannon White; and Y-Press journalists Hrishikesh Deshpande, Max Gabovitch, Nick Greven, Izaak Hayes, Beverly Jenkins, Jessika Officer, Vince Reuter, Raksha Ramesh, Meera Patel, Leeann Sausser, Sarah Zabel and alumna Olivia Mozzi for their efforts.

Special thanks to Associate Professor Dr. David Carr, University of North Carolina, School of Information and Library Science, for launching the course; Erica Christie, IU-Bloomington associate instructor and graduate student, who taught the summer course and provided inspiration; Krista Hoffmann-Longtin, IUPUI’s Solution Center associate director, for believing that the university was the right place for this project and for connecting Y-Press with appropriate resources and to Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Dr. Rob Helfenbein, Indiana University School Education at IUPUI for his guidance and Associate Clinical Professor in Media Arts & Science, Susan Tennant, IUPUI’s School of Informatics, for help in conceiving the project and loaning three outstanding students — Stan Muller, Timothy Zellner and Zachary Akers — to work on video editing and production.
The project was funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. with support from IU School of Education at IUPUI and the IUPUI Solution Center Community Venture Fund.

 Copyright 2009 Y-Press