Working through week 5 on study desk, I was intrigued and a little overwhelmed with the idea of having to use “essential questions” in our lessons. Don’t we have enough to absorb and implement? Argh!!
What is an essesntial question?
‘Essential questions’ are designed to promote genuine, important and necessarily-ongoing inquiries. This is what I imagine most teachers would hope to achieve. With this in mind, I did some google searches on ‘essential questions’ and compiled a list of definitions:
- “question can be considered essential when it helps students make sense of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how – findings that may be understood by experts, but not yet grasped or seen as valuable by the learner”
- A question you have to think critically to answer. Instead of simply looking up an answer, you need to conduct research and create an original answer.
- Essential Questions develop foundational understandings. They provide the fundamental organizing principles that bound an inquiry and guide the development of meaningful, authentic tasks.
To break it down, an essential question is when it:
- causes genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas and core content;
- provokes deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understanding as well as more questions;
- requires students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers;
- stimulates vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons;
- sparks meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences;
- naturally recurs, creating opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects.
I stumbled upon this awesome resource on ‘essential questions’ that has an abundance of resources and tools to help you create questions to ignite leaning and thinking. Essential Questions & Clear Learning Targets is answering the essential question “How can the use of essential questions and clear learning targets enhance instruction?”
I was reading through fellow students’ blogs and discovered another good resource from Sandy. The ASCD Essential Questions website provides clear contextual examples across all curriculum areas and is a very useful teaching resource.
In conclusion, I do not believe all your questions have to be essential, as there will always be a place for factual questions that are used when reasonable, simple and straightforward answers are required that are based on obvious facts or awareness. Factual questions are usually at the lowest level of cognitive (thinking) or affective (feeling) processes and answers are frequently either right or wrong. This article explains the difference between the 5 main questions utilised in the classroom.
What type are questions will you be asking on your students whilst on Prac?