I talked about questions as scaffolding here, and I like this idea of a learning question:

What is a Learning Question?

A Learning Question is a like a thesis question. It’s your own unique course title. It frames your goals, challenges or curiosities as a site for active exploration and response. It’s an itch you have to scratch.

It’s important that a Learning Question be open. Open questions are ‘designed to encourage a full and meaningful answer using the subject’s own knowledge and/or feelings’. They are the opposite of closed questions which encourage single-word answers.

Similarly, a Learning Question is designed to encourage a full and meaningful enquiry. It’s more about provoking a process of learning than about finding an answer, but if you do seek an answer it must be one that incorporates your growing knowledge and personal perspective.

Very often a Learning Question spawns a series of new questions which continue to move you forward and help you grow. Unlike an academic thesis question a Learning Question does not seek resolution as an enormous written paper! It seeks a creative response appropriate to the question.

The question can be seen as an externalisation of an inner purpose that is of great importance to the learner. This importance could be practical and immediate (e.g. ‘how can I gain the skills I need to get promoted?’) — or more philosophical (e.g. ‘what is hope and can it be designed?’).