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making the question essential again

Making the Question Essential Again…

We might ask, as a criterion for any subject taught… whether, when fully developed, it is worth an adult’s knowing, and whether having known it as a child makes a person a better adult. If the answer to both questions is negative or ambiguous, then the material is cluttering the curriculum.

-Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education, 1960, p. 52 (as found in Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 275)

why use essential questions
Why Use Essential Questions?
  • We want our curriculum to matter. That is, we need to help students and members of the community see that history education is meaningful.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to weed through parts of the curriculum that aren’t “necessary” to teach. We often rely upon textbooks to frame our curriculum and lead us through the year. Using essential questions (EQs) to guide planning will help to rid ourselves of unnecessary content and focus that which we do teach on meaningful connections.
  • Recent research demonstrates that thematic teaching is more engaging for students because they can more readily see connections. Essential questions offer a way to teach around thematic concepts while keeping your chronological curricular map.
don t you want students to
Don’t You Want Students To…
  • make connections between unit topics and previously studied material, lessons in other classes, and current events?
  • believe that what they are studying has relevance to today?
  • engage in thoughtful discourse about history using open-ended questions as a guide?
(IMPORTANT NOTE: YOU ARE PROBABLY ALREADY ENGAGING IN MANY TEACHING STRATEGIES THAT ACCOMPLISH THESE GOALS. THIS IS JUST ONE MORE IDEA TO ADD TO YOUR AMAZING REPERTOIRE.)If you answered yes to any of the questions on the previous slide, then please stay tuned to learn more about essential questions.
let s play find a connection

What kinds of themes or questions might link the examples below?

What kinds of themes or questions might link the examples below?

Conquistadors come to the Americas in the 1500s

The “Scopes Monkey Trial” rocks the nation

NATO struggles with the Kosovo War

1960s hippies “start a revolution”

  • Plato’s account of the death of Socrates
  • John Adam’s defense of British soldiers after Boston Massacre
  • Martin Luther King’s writing of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
  • Current Iranian protests over Presidential abuse of power
breaking ground
Breaking Ground
  • In the world of “Ed. Speak” there are many definitions for “essential questions.”
  • We are moving away from the prominent definition in works like Understanding By Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), which ties questions to specific unit goals. We will call these types of questions “historical questions.”
essential questions
Essential Questions…
  • Address the big ideas of history
  • Do not have right or wrong answers
  • Help students to think broadly about history rather than focusing on details
  • Allow for multiple interpretations
  • Require an understanding of cause and effect
essential questions are
Essential Questions Are…
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Problematic
  • Difficult to answer
eqs higher level thinking
EQs = Higher Level Thinking
  • Essential questions reside at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy
    • They require students to EVALUATE (make a thoughtful choice between options), to SYNTHESIZE (invent a new or different version) or to ANALYZE (develop a thorough and complex understanding through skillful questioning).
why use eqs
Why Use EQs?
  • EQs help students construct own understanding of the past
  • EQs help students understand that history is NOT a static collection of facts that are never changing but a vibrant story that continues to change with new evidence and interpretation.
why use eqs1
Why Use EQs?
  • EQs force students to examine and challenge their own beliefs through investigation of historical evidence.
  • Students must examine multiple perspectives.
how to use eqs effectively
How to use EQs effectively
  • Carefully select 4-7 EQs to use throughout the year.
  • Make sure that you use the same EQs for the whole year.
  • Make questions relevant to students today – link past to present.
how to use eqs effectively1
How to use EQs effectively…
  • Investigate through primary sources/case studies
  • Use primary sources encourage students to recognize multiple perspectives
  • Always link them to modern scenarios
let s brainstorm some sample eqs

Let’s brainstorm some sample EQs….

What types of questions could be answered across time periods and across curriculums? With a person next to you, come up with two open-ended, higher level questions that could be seen as essential to understanding history.

some things to consider
Some Things To Consider…
  • An EQ shouldn’t have a right, wrong, or preconceived answer.
  • You should be able to see how an EQ would enhance the learning in at LEAST TWO (hopefully more) units of study.
  • EQs can only be answered by considering multiple perspectives and/or addressing controversy.
  • Students should have to take a stance in their answers.
examples of eqs
Examples of EQs
  • What types of relationships should exist between the government, institutions, and individuals?
  • Should liberty be limited?
  • Why do social, economic, and political inequalities exist?
consider your wording
Consider Your Wording

Instead of these…

Try something more like this…

When and how is it appropriate to use power?

Should liberty be limited?

Why do social, economic, and political inequalities exist?

  • How can power abused?
  • When does the government limit freedom?
  • How are groups of people treated differently?
reflect and refine
Reflect and Refine
  • Share your essential questions and as a group refine them by considering…
    • Is this really an “essential” question?
    • Could the wording be changed to make the question even better?
    • Are there more than one question at this table that are similar enough to combine/change to one question?
to make our eqs work with our unit planning goals we must add historical questions
  • HQs focus on a specific benchmark/topic in history, whereas EQs cover many benchmarks/topic found in history.
  • HQs help you to apply the big essential questions to specific historical situations.
characteristics of hqs
Characteristics of HQs
  • Relevant to specific time period/topic
  • Addresses a specific standard/benchmarks
  • Not as broad as EQ
  • Direct tie-in to the EQ
eq standard hqs
EQ + Standard = HQs
  • Here’s an example:
    • EQ: What types of relationships should exist between government, institutions, and individuals?
    • Add Standard Benchmark H2(6-8).10) =
    • HQ: Why did people feel the need to limit government power through the Articles of Confederation? Did they limit it appropriately?
    • HQ: Did the Articles of Confederation establish an appropriate relationship between the government and the states? Between the government and the people?
another hq example
Another HQ Example
  • EQ- Can war be justified?
  • Add the benchmark: H3.[6-8].7 Explain the struggle between states’ rights and federalism, and the impact on the national identity in the United States.
  • HQ- How did the Confederacy justify secession and civil war?