Why am I being forced to study this? This is perhaps one of the most vexing inquiries.] Do you, as a teacher, have a good response? “Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it,” history instructors frequently warn.
That was a reasonable response in the twentieth century when the past was preserved in massive volumes of encyclopedias at your local library. However, in the twenty-first century, we have the full total of the world’s information in our back pockets. What is a teacher’s response in the twenty-first century?
Essential questions can assist you in demonstrating the significance of your subject matter to pupils. Essential questions, according to McTighe and Wiggins, contain seven characteristics:
- They’re unfinished,
- Provoking thought,
- Higher-order thinking is required.
- Make a case for major concepts that can be transferred.
- Add to your list of questions.
- Justification is required, and it will recur in the future.
Many sorts of inquiries fulfill the first six requirements, but it’s the crucial ones that pay off over time. Assume you’re a 6th grade Science teacher. You begin the year with the standard lab safety and science nature lectures. “What is Science?” you ask your kids.
“Tell me why,” you say, accepting all explanations and playing devil’s advocate: “I’m not sure I agree with you on that.” “Make me believe,” she says. After that, you introduce your kids to expert viewpoints on Science. Make sure you provide a variety of perspectives.
Now, conduct a class discussion regarding the various points of view. “What is science, according to these people?” Why? What is their justification? “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 responses.
Continue to the next unit. Return to the question “What is Science?” after two or three units to assess how your students’ perspectives have evolved. Carry on with this procedure throughout the year, being sure to keep track of answers. By the end of the year, you’ll have a strong track record of influencing students’ attitudes about science, and they’ll understand why they study it.
Essential questions (EQ) are useful in all subjects. For a history lecture, I like the notion of asking the EQ “What is freedom?” When you think about it, the concept of liberty pervades every contact we have: “Can I have a seat here?” Yes, you do have that option. “Can I wreak havoc on someone else’s belongings?” You do not have that liberty.
You can also come up with crucial questions for each course you teach. McTighe and Wiggin’s advocate using an Essential Questions-based lesson preparation method. EQs can and should be a component of every lesson plan.
Choosing an Essential Question for the full year, on the other hand, helps students focus their attention on a topic and answers the age-old question, “Why do I have to study 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 is science and what does it entail?
- Is there any truth in fiction? ELA – Is there any truth in fiction?
- What is freedom, according to social studies? What is it that is worth fighting for?
- Is the universe made up of patterns? Math – Is the world made up of patterns?
- Technology – What is the influence of technology on society?
Essential Questions help students to learn in a variety of ways. To begin with, employing EQs teaches students that questioning is a crucial component of the learning process. Students’ learning becomes more relevant and cognitively deeper as they learn to become better questioners.
With the use of Essential Questions, students’ metacognition (thinking about their thinking) improves. When teachers utilize EQs with their students, they are modeling this vital ability and showing them the sorts of questions they should be asking themselves. Finally, the use of EQs encourages students to engage in inquiry, which leads to a desire to absorb information in support of that inquiry. Simply said, students, desire to study the material to respond to the Essential Question.
You may learn more about essential questions by reading Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins’ book Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding or visiting their website essentialquestions.org.