Essential Questions “Know and understand are not synonyms.” Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design
“Understanding is always fluid, transformable into a new theory.” • What we want students to be able to do is to take information and skills and apply them in new situations rather than “spewing back the particular fact, concepts, or problem sets that were taught.” Wiggins and McTighe Understanding by Desigh
“How does one go about determining what is worth understanding amid a range of content standards and topics?”Wiggins and McTighe, 1989 p.10 • BEFORE you do your lesson plans, ask yourself, “What do I really want these student to know? What is the core nugget of knowledge that, when they are 32 years old and have forgotten most of what they have learned, will allow them to function in real life situations?”
An essential question: • is a provocative question designed to engage student interest and guide inquiry into the important ideas in a field of study. • does not have one “right” answer • is intended to stimulate discussion and rethinking over time • raises other important questions • When using more than one, essential questions can be differentiated to meet student needs.
An essential question • “is an intellectual linchpin. A linchpin is the pin that keeps the wheel in place on an axle. Thus, a linchpin idea is one that is essential for understanding – without it a student cannot go anywhere” (71).
Example: • Topic – Martin Luther King • What events and people influenced MLK to become a leader in Civil Rights? • How did MLK change the world today? • What techniques did MLK use to persuade the world that his ideas were important? • How did MLK’s leadership and philosophies influence the US position?
Two Types of essential questions: • Topical – can be answered by uncovering a unit’s content. They stay within the bounds of the topic. They can be answered as a result of in-depth inquiry. Ex: After reading Merchant of Venice, answer the question: Is Shakespeare prejudice? • Over-Arching – Point beyond a unit to a larger, transferable idea. May link a topic to other topics and subjects. Ex: What in Shakespeare’s plays make them “classic” literature?
What makes a human/country civilized? Unit – Renaissance How did the music and art of the time influence the politics? Unit – Holocaust What factors contributed to this society that still exist today? Unit – Middle Ages Truth vs Fantasy: the feudalism, knights, castles, religion. What was the Middle Ages really like?
Three types of knowledge • Good to know; knowledge worth being familiar with; covered in class • Essential, important to know; uncovered in class • Enduring knowledge; has understanding beyond the classroom; student come to the realization
Grade 4 Unit: Electricity; Reports Knowledge worth being familiar with; facts covered in class Vocabulary: protons, electrons, friction, volts, etc. Lightning facts A circuit is a continuous loop of energy and motion. Parts of a circuit How has electricity changed the world? How is electricity an energy source in my world? How is electricity helpful and harmful Static electricity is caused by friction/ transfer of electrons 3 types of circuits:simple; series; parallel Make up of a molecule Schematics Enduring knowledge: These have value beyond the classroom. Student come to the realization. There are different energy sources and they all produce electricity Knowledge and skills important to know. These are uncovered in class.
Grade 8 Unit: Role of Government Reports/ Persuasive Knowledge worth being familiar with; facts covered in class Vocabulary: self-interest, government, democracy, law, etc. Federal/ state/ local Why national parks were created Enduring knowledge: These have value beyond the classroom. Student come to the realization. Whose job is it to solve America’s problems? Choose a national park – Whose job is it to preserve this park? Names and locations of national parks How a law Is made The enduring knowledge question may embed the facts learned in the other parts of the circle. What is the difference between government and committed group? length of terms of office Knowledge and skills important to know. These are uncovered in class. Background – growth of industrialism
High School Unit: Holocaust: Reports/Persuasive/ Project Knowledge and skills important to know. These are uncovered in class. Nazi philosophy; fascism; totalitarian government; racism; anti-Semitism Leaders Courage to Care: Warsaw Ghetto; Denmark; Avenue of the Just Enduring knowledge: These have value beyond the classroom. Student come to the realization. Progression of laws How do individuals, groups, towns, and countries make a difference? How can we make a difference? Difference between bias, prejudice, discrimination Events The enduring knowledge question may embed the facts learned in the other parts of the circle. Preparing for obedience: propaganda, role of education, indoctrination of people Knowledge and skills important to know. These are uncovered in class.
Only a person who has questions can have knowledge.” Gadamker, 1994