Throughline Questions

Kent den Heyer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Secondary Education in the Faculty of Education has been actively involved with the Working Group for the past three years. One of his invaluable contributions to GCCD is the introduction of throughline questions. He and two graduate students have held workshops to assist instructors at the University of Alberta to develop throughline questions as a way to integrate global citizenship into their respective courses. For more information about this work, please contact us, or Kent den Heyer at


Throughline Questions:


(excerpted from

  • illuminate the goals or objectives of courses by asking the bigger questions that help students recognize, evaluate and synthesize key notions, ideas, concepts and understandings as they encounter them in the curriculum
  • encourage students to move beyond memorization and help them to synthesize course content to answer important questions
  • call for ethical contemplation, invokes 3 'S' understanding (whereby students demonstrate an understanding of subject matter in relation to society and the self), and can be approached by any number of disciplines.
Examples of throughline questions:

1. In what ways are thoughts and viruses alike?

   a) What viral strains make up your beliefs and interpretations about…

   b) Where did you catch them?

2. What similarities/differences exist between colonial exploitation in the past and present globalization?  

   a) What is colonialism?

   b) What definitions exist for globalization?

   c) What is change and does it differ if we look at society, politics, or economics?

Characteristics of a throughline question:

  • Must be broad but specific
  • Must be relevant, sexy, provocative, and suitable for the particular class and developmental level
  • Requires ethical contemplation
  • Addresses 3 'S' understanding
  • Can be approached from a number of disciplines

For more information, please refer to the following article:

den Heyer, K. (2009). Implicated and called upon: Challenging an educated position of self, others, knowledge and knowing as things to acquire. Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, 3(1), 26-36.