What makes a question essential?

Now that we have a better understanding of what a culture of inquiry looks like and why we should use essential questions we're going to take a look at the essential question. What does that mean? What is essential? What is their purpose?

 Wiggins and McTighe state that essential questions have seven defining characteristics. These include: open-ended, thought provoking and intellectually engaging, call for higher order thinking, lead to important and transferable ideas, invoke more questions, require you to support and justify your answer, and can continuously be revisited over time.

With the characteristics defined Wiggins and McTighe (2013 ) delve into the purpose of essential questions which we touched on in chapter six.
We propose that education should strive to develop and deepen students' understanding of important ideas and processes so that they can transfer their learning within and outside of school. (pg )
Essential questions require actively exploring the content; understanding how it lends support to the idea of broadening students thinking that allows for transfer-ability.  Essential questions are the "flip side of the coin" of targeted understandings. When we look at our targeted understandings we can build essential questions that focus on essential content.

Several years ago the teachers in my district sat down together to  determined essential standards. We spent countless hours determining which content standards were the most important to "master" by the end of the year (at all grade levels). We did activities together as a whole staff. We did activities in grade level teams and we did activities in small vertical teams.  What we didn't know at the time was our administration was setting us up for this exact way of thinking.  I'm forever grateful to be apart of such an amazing community of educators.

Next in chapter one,  we take a look at the meanings of essential. We have "essential" that means important and timeless. Then we have  "essential" that means elemental or foundational.  And last, we have essential that means vital for personal understanding. All equally important. This goes to show that even in skills-based courses essential questions can be utilized. As a literacy interventionist, this was key for me and my PD plan this coming school year.

 I love and have many highlights and notes in the next Subtitle: Intent Trumps Form. Why you ask a question is more important then how you ask a question. You can post, and ask, and encourage students to use questions but if there is no purpose behind the question other then requiring general knowledge, it is not essential. That's not to say that questions that require recall and basic knowledge do not have a place in the classroom because they do. But this study is about the "essential question."

At the end of this chapter they discuss several different types of questions and their purposes. I like how they include this because reiterates that in order to support a culture of inquiry in the classroom all types of questions are necessary. Sometimes when we start studying a topic it becomes unclear that topics around this same idea are also necessary to creating balance.  I know I'm guilty of that and sometimes that leads me to believe that a particular idea is not good and I abandon it.

I hope you were able to read chapter one and gain some personal insights.  If so comment below, or if you'd rather, start a discussion in the forum. I'd love to see you you plan on applying this learning.

Don't forget our Twitter chat Friday, July 17th at 6 p.m. Use #MMPD to join in the chat!

I'll post chapter 3 Thursday July 16th. Until then, 

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