Why am I being forced to study this? This is possibly one of the most vexing questions.] But, as a teacher, do you have a decent answer? “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” history teachers often warn.
That was a reasonable response in the twentieth century, when the history was contained in massive volumes of encyclopedias at your local library. However, in the twenty-first century, we carry the sum total of the world’s information in our back pockets.
How should a teacher in the twenty-first century respond? Essential questions can assist you in demonstrating the meaning of your subject to students. Essential questions, according to McTighe and Wiggins, have seven characteristics:
- They are open-ended,
- Provoking thought,
- Higher order thinking is required.
- Point to large ideas that can be transferred.
- Pose additional inquiries,
- Justification is required.
- Recurring throughout time
Many types of inquiries fit the first six requirements, but it is crucial questions that pay their way over time. Assume you’re a sixth-grade science teacher. The year begins with the standard lab safety and what is the nature of Science teachings.
“What is Science?” you ask your kids. You accept all responses and play the role of the devil’s advocate: “Tell me why” “I’m not sure if I agree with you on that.” “Convince me.” Following that, you introduce your kids to professional viewpoints on Science.
Make sure you provide a variety of perspectives. Now, lead a class discussion regarding the various points of view. “What do these people mean by science?” Why? What is their rationale? “Where is their proof?”
“What do we now think is Science?” come to a tentative conclusion with your students. Make a flip chart or a public presentation of your answers.
Continue with your following units. Return to the question “What is Science?” after 2 or 3 units to assess how your student’s opinions have changed. Continue this process throughout the year, being sure to keep track of responses.
By the end of the year, you will have an outstanding record of influencing students’ attitudes about science, and they will understand why they study science.
Essential questions (EQ) can be used in any subject. I really like the notion of using the EQ “What is freedom?” in a history class. When you think about it, the concept of freedom pervades every contact we have: “Can I sit here?” Yes, you have that liberty. “Am I allowed to destroy someone else’s property?” No, you don’t have that option.
You can also develop crucial questions for each topic you teach. McTighe and Wiggins, in fact, advocate a lesson planning system that includes Essential Questions. EQs may and should be used into lesson planning.
Choosing an Essential Question for the full year, on the other hand, helps students focus their attention on a subject and answers the age-old question, “Why do I have to learn this?” Here are some examples of Essential Questions that might be asked throughout the year:
- Band/Choir – What distinguishes music from noise?
- Sculpture – What does art have to say about society?
What Exactly Is Science?
- ELA – Can fiction include any truths?
- What is freedom, according to social studies? What is it worth battling for?
- Is the world made up of patterns, according to math?
- Technology – How does technology affect society?
Essential Questions help students learn in a variety of ways. For starters, employing EQs teaches students that questioning is a crucial aspect of the learning process. Students’ learning becomes more relevant and cognitively deeper when they learn to become better questioners.
The use of Essential Questions promotes students’ metacognition, or thinking about their thinking. When teachers utilize EQs, they are modelling this vital skill to their students and demonstrating the types of questions they should be asking themselves.
Finally, the usage of EQs encourages inquiry, and students begin to want to learn stuff that will help them with their inquiry. Simply said, students desire to understand the material so that they can respond to the Essential Question.