Essential questions
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Essential Questions. Sandy Stuart-Bayer Lee’s Summit High School. Essential Questions. Are arguable-and important to argue about. Are at the heart of the subject. Recur--and should recur--in professional work, adult life, as well as in the classroom.

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Essential Questions

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Essential Questions

Sandy Stuart-Bayer

Lee’s Summit High School


Essential Questions

  • Are arguable-and important to argue about.

  • Are at the heart of the subject.

  • Recur--and should recur--in professional work, adult life, as well as in the classroom.

  • Raise more questions—”parent” questions that produce more questions.

  • Often raise important issues.

  • Can provide a purpose for learning.


Essential Questions

  • Are provocative, enticing, and engagingly framed.

  • Are higher-order, in Bloom's sense: they are always matters of analysis, synthesis, and evaluative judgment. You must “go beyond” the information given.

  • Or, in BPA terms, they are Proficient and Advanced, never Basic.

  • Answers to essential questions cannot be found. They must be invented.


Essential

Asked to be argued

Designed to “uncover” new ideas, views, lines of argument

Set up inquiry, heading to new understandings.

Leading

Asked as a reminder, to prompt recall

Designed to “cover” knowledge

Point to a single, straightforward fact-a rhetorical question

Essential vs. leading Q’s


Essential Questions

  • Essential questions often begin with . .

    • Why?

    • Which?

    • How?

    • What if?

  • Why do things happen the way they do?

  • Which do I select?

  • How could things be made better?

  • Which is best?

  • What if this happened?


Essential Questions

  • Should require one of the following thought processes:

    • Requires developing a plan or course of action

      OR

    • Requires making a decision


Essential Questions

Examples:

  • Must a story have a moral? A beginning, middle, and end? Heroes and villains?

  • Is Russia becoming more or less democratic since Brezhnev came into power?

  • Is geometry more like map-making and using a map, or inventing and playing games like chess? Were theorems invented or discovered?

  • Is prejudice more a view of race or class?

  • What makes a family a community?

  • Do statistics always lie?


Essential Questions

Examples continued

  • Are some aspects of another language and culture not understandable by people from other cultures?

  • Is gravity a fact or a theory? Is evolution a scientific law or a theory?

  • In what ways are animals human, and in what way are humans animals?

  • Do mathematical models conceal as much as they reveal?

  • (From Understanding by Design: Curriculum and Assessment, pp. 34-35)


Related or Supporting Questions

  • These are the smaller questions that must be answered in order to answer the big, essential question.

  • They provide background and guide the work.

  • They tend to be more topic and subject-specific.


Questioning

  • For additional information on the importance of questioning and the different types of questions see:

    • Jamie McKenzie’s Questioning Toolbox

      • http://fno.org/nov97/toolkit.html or

    • The Question IS the Answer

      • http://fno.org/oct97/question.html or

    • UnderstandingbyDesign Powerpoint


But my teacher wants a thesis statement. . .

  • If your research assignment is required to have a thesis statement, essential questions will help you develop it.

  • Take a look at this presentation on thesis statements from essential questions.


To Learn More about Thesis Statements

  • Purdue OWL’s Thesis or Question

  • Joyce Valenza’s “What is a Thesis?”

  • Indiana University’s “How to Write a Thesis Statement”


Return to LSHS Research

and Problem-Solving Model


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