Tag Archives: driving question

100 Driving Questions and 25 Final Products Related to Covid-19 Pandemic

Disclaimer: This post assumes that you are already doing responsible online teaching: checking the social and emotional state of your students, giving meaningful feedback but NOT grading their work, and not overwhelming them with too much work.

What should PBL look like for crisis distance learning? It should include lots of student voice and choice exploring content through their passions. Without the pressure of standardized testing and curriculum requirements, now is the perfect time to try PBL with your students.

So where should you begin? I made a list of some Driving Questions that could launch student inquiry. I would not recommend giving students this entire list to overwhelm them, but perhaps a subset that are age appropriate. I considered organizing them by subject area, but most integrate multiple subjects so use this as an opportunity to break down those false silos that we call content. So without further ado, here are 100 Driving Questions (link to PDF) to spur your thinking:

Driving Questions:

  1. How do we balance individuals rights and social responsibility?
  2. What form of government is best situated to handle a pandemic?
  3. How has Federalism led to tension/problems between the federal and state governments?
  4. What should be the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government in an emergency situation?
  5. What are the roles and responsibilities of local government in an emergency situation?
  6. Who should make decisions about quarantines, closing schools and businesses?
  7. What should be the consequences, if any, for people and businesses who ignore quarantines orders?
  8. What is the role of police in emergency situations like coronavirus?
  9. Who should be responsible for an adequate stockpile of PPE for hospitals?
  10. What is the appropriate federal response to the economic ramifications of the pandemic?
  11. Who should receive bailout funds and how much? (Small businesses, large corporations, unemployed, etc.)
  12. What requirements should the government mandate for aid/bailouts?
  13. How does the government stimulus package compare to past government initiatives? (New Deal, Bailout of banks in 2008, etc.) 
  14. Should the government raise or lower taxes and for whom?
  15. Should the government pay for all healthcare during the pandemic as proposed by
  16. Since it is an election year, how has the pandemic become a political issue?
  17. Who should be held responsible for the spread of the pandemic? (WHO, China, US government, etc)
  18. Will the federal government expand its powers and budget after Covid-19 like it did during the New Deal and post-9/11? (new agencies, PPE requirements, social distancing laws)
  19. What is greater, the rights to person freedom or the safety of emergency workers? 
  20. What is the role of the media during a pandemic?
  21. How is quarantine different/similar to the domestic front during war? (Compare to WWI, WWII, and the Cold War)
  22. Why does the United States have such a high percentage of the Covid-19 cases compared to the rest of the world?
  23. How does the high percentage of African-American deaths due to Covid 19 reflect inequity?
  24. What is the purpose and role of the CDC and FDA in potential treatment and vaccine for Covid 19?
  25. What is your daily life like right now?
  26. How has your family’s life changed due to the coronavirus?
  27. Compare your daily life right now to _____________(letters or diaries of people in other important historical times such as the Great Depression or occupation during war).
  28. What should be the requirements before large events like concerts and sports return?
  29. Who should be prioritized to receive coronavirus testing?
  30. Who should be prioritized for access to ventilators?
  31. What is more important, public health and safety or economic growth?
  32. Are the shelter in place orders constitutional?
  33. What future laws/policies should be enacted to protect ourselves from a pandemic?
  34. Should doctors and nurses be able to refuse to work in hotspot areas if they are not provided adequate PPE?
  35. How does the coronavirus show class inequality?
  36. Will our economy rebound? How fast or slowly? What should the government do to help?
  37. Should people be allowed to go to church or other places of worship during a quarantine?
  38. How will coronavirus shift cultural norms? (handshaking, hugging, dancing, group socializing)
  39. Should people be allowed to protest and demonstrate during a quarantine order?
  40. Should the government be allowed to temporarily close businesses during a quarantine?
  41. If a vaccine is developed for Covid 19, should it be mandatory for everyone?
  42. Do you know someone who has died from Covid-19? If yes, how are you handling it?
  43. What is the psychological effect of quarantine?
  44. Describe how your family is growing closer or distancing during quarantine?
  45. What are the similarities and differences to other historical pandemics? (Black Plague, Smallpox to Native Americans, Spanish Flu)
  46. How should schools change in response to crisis distance learning?
  47. Should price gouging be legal in a capitalistic system?
  48. What are the limits of capitalism shown during coronavirus?
  49. Should the US enact tariffs against China due to coronavirus?
  50. What is the role and responsibility of the United States toward other nations during a pandemic?
  51. Should the federal government have the power to nationalize private businesses?
  52. Should the president have the power to declare a national quarantine?
  53. Should the U.S. restrict immigration during a pandemic?
  54. How should the U.S. respond diplomatically to China’s lack of full disclosure of the pandemic?
  55. How should the U.S. prepare for possible future pandemics? 
  56. What is the balance between individual freedoms and the public good?
  57. Should the government have the power to define “essential” businesses?
  58. How has quarantining affected the environment and climate change?
  59. What “new” quarantine habits should we continue after Covid-19?
  60. Why do most plagues originate from animals?
  61. How do viruses make us sick?
  62. How do vaccines work?
  63. How do viruses mutate?
  64. What should be the conditions before “reopening” society?
  65. What is more important: maximizing health or maximizing the economy?
  66. Are government bailouts effective?
  67. Should prisoners be temporarily released?
  68. Why has Covid-19 heavily impacted the Navajo community? 
  69. How does the philosophy of flattening the curve work?
  70. How is the spread of Covid-19 exponential?
  71. How does social distancing slow the spread of a virus? Bonus: entry event
  72. How does the body fight off viruses?
  73. What country has had the best response to Covid-19?
  74. What dystopian novel relates to this pandemic?
  75. Should the federal government “bailout” schools?
  76. How does housing density affect the probability of contracting the virus? 
  77. How does exposure time out of your house affect the probability of contracting the virus?
  78. What is the impact of living in the city vs. living in the country?
  79. What demographic features are most susceptible to Covid-19? (sex, race, age, social-economic status)
  80. What is the acceptable risk level to re-open society?
  81. How can we predict “hotspots” to prepare ahead of time?
  82. Why do people hoard?
  83. Why can’t stores keep toilet paper in stock?
  84. Should the government enact and enforce PPE laws?
  85. How should “essential” businesses be defined?
  86. How should people maintain their physical and mental health while social distancing?
  87. Should we move to mandatory absentee balloting?
  88. How does the pandemic affect global trade?
  89. Should home internet access be a right?
  90. How does the pandemic impact future job markets?
  91. Which companies benefit/suffer from the pandemic?
  92. What is the best response to mass unemployment?
  93. What should be in a pandemic survival kit?
  94. How long does coronavirus live on different surfaces?
  95. Should the federal government let states go bankrupt?
  96. How do we balance federal bailouts and the national debt?
  97. Should we loosen FDA requirements on experimental medicine?
  98. What is the impact of less driving on the environment and the economy?
  99. What will be the permanent economic effects of remote shopping?
  100. What should school look like for 2020-21?

Final Products:

What should students create or make as their final product? The possibilities are endless, but here are some ideas that mesh with the DQ’s above:

  1. Simulation where students are the government handling the pandemic
  2. Mathematical charts, graphs, statistics
  3. Diary of your quarantine experience
  4. Dystopian short story critiquing an aspect of the response to the pandemic
  5. Lab experiments to design tests
  6. Economic opinion podcasts
  7. Sketchnote video explaining different government roles
  8. Pros/Cons website
  9. Public Service Announcement targeting greatly affected groups
  10. Proposal for equitable law change
  11. Infographic advocating for behavior change related to physical, mental, or public health or the environment
  12. Quarantine garden or cookbook
  13. Art piece 
  14. Propaganda poster
  15. Digital scrapbook of Covid-19
  16. Poetry about quarantine or the psychological impact of the pandemic
  17. Debate on Zoom or Google Meet
  18. Plan to help a local business adapt and survive the pandemic
  19. Tutorial video on hygiene
  20. Photo essay of your community
  21. App for social distancing
  22. Editorial
  23. Letter to your future self
  24. Regulations for businesses to reopen
  25. Cost/benefit analysis

Questions? PBL and SEL Consulting?  I can be found at my blog michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

The Marriage of SEL and PBL

Social Emotional Learning and Project Based Learning are two of the hottest trends in education right now. Their popularity is due to the pendulum swinging back from the previous obsession with standardization and assessment dictated by NCLB and RTTT to more holistic education. Yet neither SEL nor PBL should be seen as fads, but as necessary and permanent shifts in pedagogy.

SEL is constantly happening in every classroom but is often part of the hidden curriculum. Teachers need to make SEL visible and intentional. Many schools are implementing specific plans for SEL as a stand alone curriculum. But as Frey, Fisher, and Smith advocate in All learning is Social and Emotional,

“What’s needed, and what’s far less common, is for schools to amplify the principles SEL programs introduce to make them the fabric of the school itself. In order for SEL to have a lasting and sustained effect, it needs to be integrated into the academic mainstream rather than remain on the periphery.”

SEL should not be another thing added onto teachers’ plates, but rather is most effective when integrated into classroom culture and routines.

PBL experts have long advocated that students should be learning skills in the classroom simultaneously with content knowledge. There are many labels for these skills:

SEL is the best terminology and framework for the set of skills that PBL experts agree should be integrated into projects. The following table shows how CASEL’s SEL Competencies can be naturally embedded into High Quality PBL.

Free PDF Download of Chart


Self-Awareness is accurately perceiving who you are as a person and developing confidence based on your individual strengths. Many students lack a belief in their abilities or have skills that are not emphasized in traditional classrooms. Project Based Learning gives all students the opportunity to gain confidence by creating meaningful work.

PBL honors each student’s unique characteristics. Through voice and choice, students recognize and use their strengths in what products they create and how they demonstrate their learning. Students build confidence by choosing group roles based on their strengths. PBL is built upon a growth mindset. Students use design thinking protocols to plan solutions, creating a culture of failing forward through iterative stages. They learn that mistakes are not permanent, but part of the routines of working toward success.

Reflection throughout the project process helps students see their progress and personal growth. Public presentation of their work encourages students and creates a positive self-perception. Students learn to advocate for themselves in PBL by requesting workshops from the teacher when needed. Most importantly the PBL framework teaches students how to learn, so they develop the skills to pursue any topic that they are passionate about on their own.

Social Awareness

Social Awareness is considering others’ perspectives and having empathy for people from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Today’s world has become polarized with people talking over each other, rather than listening and working towards compromise. High quality PBL forces students to consider multiple perspectives before working toward solutions.

Every teacher begins the year by establishing classroom norms. In PBL these norms are focused on respecting each other, even when we disagree and on how to function well in a group. Since students spend the majority of their day working together, they will consistently have different opinions. These are opportunities for them to learn how to navigate conflict peacefully. Each student’s voice should be heard and respected throughout the project.

Projects start with a Driving Question (DQ) to engage students and frame the anticipated learning. Students should be investigating multiple viewpoints before coming to any conclusions. Community members from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences should be embedded into the process. Students should see that complex problems in society do not have simplistic, one-sided answers.

A project on stewardship of the environment, for example, would consider not only the negative effects of industrial pollution and land development, but the positive effects of jobs and economic benefits created by businesses. Students would be challenged to hear all sides and balance the needs of everyone in their final solutions.

Responsible Decision Making

Responsible Decision Making is making positive choices based on ethics, safety, and norms. The SEL framework emphasizes student behavior in the classroom, whereas PBL applies it more globally to issues outside of themselves. But the skills are the same in each case, with PBL using Social Awareness to drive this decision making.

The Driving Question launches a project with a focus on an authentic problem. Students then generate a list of “Need to Know’s” (N2K’s) of information and skills necessary to generate a solution. From the N2K’s, students with the guidance of the teacher plan “Next Steps” of how they will conduct research into the problem. This whole process requires identifying and analyzing problems at a deep level.

Since PBL is student-driven, continuous inquiry is embedded as students evaluate both resources and the Driving Question at every stage. Students engage in feedback and revision protocols such as gallery walks and the tuning protocol as they evaluate each other’s work. This peer feedback leads to exemplary products in their final solutions to the Driving Question.

In PBL, students reflect on both the skills that they are learning and their behaviors in their groups. There are “teachable moments” to talk about ethical responsibility on a daily basis. Taking ethics to the next level, service projects give students the chance to make a positive impact in the community. PBL creates a strong connection for students between personal and civic responsibility in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Self Management

Self Management is regulating oneself to manage and achieve goals. Project management is a key skillset in PBL within which self management is practiced and attained. The teacher creates a climate for students to manage themselves with the norms and routines mentioned under Social Awareness. Students become self-motivated when they exercise their voice to direct their learning as they explore their passions in the N2K’s and Next Steps protocols.

The classroom should be a safe space for students to develop project management skills. In PBL, students organize their groups through contracts that define appropriate behavior and define work roles. They can use tools such as scrum boards and team calendars. Students should set goals as a team and learn to hold each other accountable for completion. Older students can use online tools such as Trello to organize and younger students can use posters or bulletin boards for the same purpose.

Students also learn self-management by choosing the appropriate scaffolding and tools that they need to complete their work. Teachers can give menus of options and students can choose what works for them. Finally, a key element of PBL is self assessment through reflection. Students can compare their work to rubric descriptions and exemplars. They should be reflecting on their content learning and the SEL skills that they are developing throughout the PBL process.

Relationship Skills

Relationship Skills are the ability to maintain healthy relationships with diverse people through communication and cooperation. Since PBL involves significant time spent working in groups, it is the perfect structure to develop Relationship Skills

Communication is one of the most fundamental skills developed in PBL. In traditional classrooms, students often sit passively listening most of the time. In PBL, not only are students constantly communicating in their groups, but they give professional presentations to their class and the community. Community experts are brought in and students collaborate with them to develop solutions to the DQ.

As mentioned previously, group contracts and student roles help students learn how to interact with each other in productive ways and invoke teamwork for successful completion of their goals. Feedback and revision protocols teach students to both give and accept peer feedback on their products. Reflection throughout the project on their group dynamics gives students opportunities to identify and solve relationship challenges.


SEL should not be another add-on program in schools. PBL is the perfect framework to teach SEL competencies seamlessly. This student-centered approach allows students to develop their skills in a safe environment under the reflective guidance of their teacher. SEL and PBL -the perfect marriage ’til death do they part.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.