The Project Approach – a project-based-learning framework

The EKWQ framework was developed by Sylvia Chard, a leading project-based-learning expert and author of The Project Approach. This chart summarizes the EKWQ framework.

EKWQ – Experience, Knowledge, Wonder, and asking Questions

A Framework to Start the Project Process

EKWQ builds on student experience to generate authentic student interest in a topic, shared knowledge, and practice in exploring the known parts of a topic before tackling the unknowns.


Teacher’s Role


Examples: what students do

Experience Ethnographer – learn what students already know through observation Share & represent existing experiences with topic. Tell stories, write, draw, make paintings and collages, make clay models, construct with blocks, role play, etc.
Knowledge Support student activities and encourage deeper explanations. Deepen prior knowledge and develop expertise Interview/survey each other, take notes, collect data. Represent the collected research in charts and graphs. Develop theories.
Wondering Coordinate work to develop collective understandings and research process Learn what other students know and explore differences. Share expertise. Draw conclusions and explore areas of interest, unknowns, and curiosity.
Ask Questions Articulate – Help students turn “wonders” into driving questions Develop driving questions for projects. Create lists of questions. Brainstorm ideas and consolidate.

Note: KWL (a popular instructional planning tool used to create charts of “what we Know”, “what we Want to know”, and “what we Learned”) may sound similar. However, Chard notes that KWL was designed for instruction centered on reading of texts and is not enough for a project, and worse, KWL can inhibit the development of student interest.

Read more about The Project Approach.

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