Make Just One Change

Make Just One Change Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, Foreword by Wendy D. Puriefoy
paper, 192 Pages
Pub. Date: September 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-099-7
Price: $31.00

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Pub. Date: September 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-454-4

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The authors of Make Just One Change argue that formulating one’s own questions is “the single most essential skill for learning”—and one that should be taught to all students.


As the title of this book indicates, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana believe that education can be transformed if students, rather than teachers, assume responsibility for posing questions. This idea may sound simple, but it is both complex and radical: complex, in that formulating good, generative questions, and being prepared to work toward satisfactory answers, is hardly a simple undertaking; and radical, in the sense that an apparently easy move can bring about a Copernican revolution in the atmosphere of the classroom and the dynamics of learning. The authors modestly quote physicist Niels Bohr who once said, ‘An expert is someone who has made all possible mistakes in a field and there are no more to be made.’ In reading this powerful work, I was reminded of what Albert Einstein said, when he learned of Jean Piaget’s pioneering questioning of young children: ‘so simple only a genius could have thought of it.’ — Howard Gardner, The John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

[The authors] provide . . . an inspiring vision of education at its best and an extraordinarily clear, low-tech, practical intellectual tool for turning that vision into reality. — from the foreword by Wendy D. Puriefoy, president, Public Education Network

The protocols described in this book are easy to follow and adaptable to a variety of classrooms and subjects. These simple strategies can lead students to go into more depth in their learning and stretch the standard curriculum beyond the textbook. Students’ energy, motivation, and perseverance increase noticeably when they have more ownership of the topics they are studying. — Hayley Dupuy, sixth-grade math and science teacher, J. L. Stanford Middle School, Palo Alto, California

Just when you think you know all you need to know, you ask another question and discover how much more there is to learn. — Sixth-grade student, J. L. Stanford Middle School, Palo Alto

This book begins with the seemingly simple request to get students to ask their own questions, but at heart it's a book about creating a classroom alive with dialogue, inquiry, and respect for students' minds. — Mike Rose, author of Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us

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About the Authors

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana are co-directors of The Right Question Institute, a nonprofit organization that disseminates a strategy that makes it possible for all people, no matter their educational or literacy level, to learn to advocate for themselves and participate in decisions that affect them on all levels of a democratic society.

Dan Rothstein spent many years learning from the people with whom he has worked and has applied those lessons to designing strategies to promote more effective self-advocacy and citizen participation efforts. Prior to his work with The Right Question Institute, he developed and implemented education programs in Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Israel as a community educator, organizer, and urban planner. He served as Director of Neighborhood Planning for the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and was a Fulbright Scholar and a National Academy of Education Spencer Fellow. He graduated from Harvard College and earned a doctorate in education and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Educational Review.

Luz Santana has modeled in her own life—raising her family on welfare, working on the factory floor, going back to school, and then sharing her new skills with others—much of what The Right Question Institute aims to accomplish through its work. Prior to her work with The Right Question Institute, Santana worked as a housing services counselor and parent advocate. She has extensive experience designing and implementing applications of the Right Question Strategy in low-income communities around the country, and is recognized nationally for the participatory trainings and workshops she has designed and facilitated. Santana was a Community Fellow at MIT. She holds a BA and master’s degree from the Springfield College School of Human Services.