It seems a few of our students remain confused about the guiding question. Some don’t see the point. Others are overwhelmed by its scope. A few in the technical fields see it as a distraction.
If this is so – and let’s assume it is – we need to build a stronger case.
A Guiding Question can be many things, but first and foremost the GQ should be something that inspires passion. It should animate them in the same way their five year old self wanted to explore, or simply wonder.
We insist on finding this animating question because no matter a student’s major, career plan, level of introversion, or belief (or lack thereof) in their capacity to be creative, we think it is important to make the QU experience greater than the sum of its parts.
Even if they don’t find their passion on cue in our 14-week timeline, we want students slowing down long enough to ask what’s the meaning to me in all those credit hours and courses, meaning beyond having a major and a degree.
The GQ need not relate directly to a student’s major. Engineers love art and poetry and historians like to tinker with cars. Nurses love sports.
- What can art teach us about modern design?
- Does working with our hands bring solace?
- What do sports say about the human spirit?
None are related to their degree, but all are useful to contemplating who they are as a people, who they are as a person.
On the other hand, the GQ can align with majors and career plans but should be about more than “being a good accountant, trainer, or reporter.”
- The business student might wonder what it means to lead.
- The athletic trainer can explore why trust matters to her effectiveness
- The journalist can ask why objectivity is so elusive.
Some questions stem from a student’s personal life, and their thought about their place in a family, or community.
- What can I do to help more Latinos become educators (PT major).
- What if more African-Americans became cops? (Undeclared Liberal Arts)
- What’s the case for God? (Game Design)
Be lenient in your assessments – this is a beginning. Be sure to make this clear.
Know that there’s a difference between performance and learning. A student who is skilled at the game of school may meet all of our 14-week expectations but in fact learn less (long term) than a student who seems not to get it or care (in our 14-week frame).
Encourage the heart and the process. Allow them to breath. And fail. The key is to set them thinking. FYS should inspire possibilities, not worries.