In 2011, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana applied cognitive flexibility in their groundbreaking Question Formulation Technique published in, Make Just One Change, which proposes a simple and effective use of questioning; an approach that they argue that will change the face of classroom instruction.
In this work, they explain the profound effect that the shift to teaching students to ask their own questions rather than responding to ours can make in the classroom.
Rothstein and Santana introduce this in the formation created a Question Formulation Technique that offers three different ways of thinking about a subject: divert, convergent, and metacognitive thinking. They developed a systematic process which teaches students specific skills and techniques in order to develop their thinking and questioning skills. Divergent thinking, they explain, encourages students to wonder, generating a wide range of ideas, unfiltered, or judged.
This style of thinking is associated with creativity and innovation. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a way of thinking that synthesizes information, summarizing, seeing common threads, themes, and an ability to evaluate ideas. Metacognition is the ability of one to know and be aware of how one is thinking. The Question Formulation Technique employs each of these strategies.
The explicit instruction of cognitive flexibility is exactly what Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana accomplished in their Question Formulation Technique. In this technique, they have applied the theory of cognitive flexibility along with metacognition. It is brilliantly simple, reorganizing instruction, in a process that moves students back a forth between convergent and divergent thinking, exercising cognitive flexibility and control of it. By design, the Question Formulation Technique is achievable to every student, embodies choice, differentiation, and engagement.
The Question Formulation Technique is a six-step process to teach your students to ask their own questions. First, the teacher names a focus. Then, students generate questions using four important rules. The first and second rules are, to generate as many questions as possible and to do this without stopping to judge, discuss, or answer any of the generated questions; surprisingly difficult as it represents a huge change in academic culture. The third rule is to write down each question exactly as it is said and the fourth is to change any statement into a question.
Next, closed and open-ended questions are prioritized. After that, a plan is made for the use of questions. Finally, students reflect on their work and decide the next steps.
In this way, students are exercising cognitive flexibility, highly engaged in the process, and taking ownership for learning to think, develop, and refine their learning.