The Right Question Institute (RQI) began its work with a dropout prevention program in Lawrence, Massachusetts, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, when parents told us they were not participating in their children’s education because they “don’t even know what to ask.” It only took hearing that statement one or two… thousand times, and we finally got it. Parents had identified an obstacle that prevents many people from learning, from thinking for themselves, from doing their own problem solving, and from becoming more self-sufficient.
Eventually, we figured out that we had to find a way for people to learn how to formulate their own questions and to effectively participate in the decision-making process. RQI has spent over 25 years designing strategies, such as the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) and the Framework for Accountable Decision-Making (FADM), and resources so practitioners can teach these skills as simply and effectively as possible. In field after field, in community after community, our simple yet powerful strategies have been effective for engaging all individuals, no matter their race, ethnicity, creed, or education.
Below is just a glimpse of how the Right Question Strategy, QFT, and FADM have been used:
- Over 300,000 educators around the world are stimulating student curiosity by teaching students how to ask questions. Yazmin, a freshman from Fitchburg, Massachusetts used the QFT regularly during her English class and noted how, “questions can help you discover new information, and can fill your mind with other questions.” In response to “why do you think we ask questions?” Ayaka, a first grader from Novi, Michigan, a city 25 miles northwest of Detroit, shared, “so we can be curious about what we are learning and want to know more.” An educator from Kyoto, Japan finds that for students, “the QFT stimulates curiosity, which leads to more questions.”
- Immigrant parents in New Mexico begin to ask questions about how to help prevent violence in their children’s schools and organize into a powerful local force to improve opportunities and outcomes for all children.
- Women in an adult literacy program in New Hampshire learn to advocate for themselves and secure better job training opportunities through their local welfare office.
- Patients in community health centers in the Bronx and Brooklyn, New York learn to ask questions and participate in decisions made during their encounters with health care providers.
- Sugar cane plantation workers in Hawaii, about to lose the sole source of livelihood, learn to ask questions and participate in decisions about how to use the land for different purposes, supporting small businesses and begin to have a say in decisions about how company-owned housing will be allocated.
- Residents in a homeless shelter in Louisville, Kentucky discover the value of having a say in the school assignment process and become effective advocates for their children entering middle schools across the city.
- As a part of a National Science Foundation-funded research study, doctoral students at Brandeis University, UMass Lowell, and Northeastern University learned an adaptation of the QFT to learn how to ask better, more transformative research questions.