Professional Development Writing Essential Questions for Rigorous Learning Using Essential Questions in the LDC Template Tasks Literacy Design Collaborative What is an Essential Question? Grant Wiggins “An essential question is…well, essential: important, vital, at the heart of the matter-the essence of the issue. It is a question that any thoughtful and intellectually-alive person ponders and should keep pondering.” Understanding by Design Grant Wiggins The term “essential” refers to what is needed for the learning of core content. A question is essential when it helps students make sense of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how. When is a Question Essential? Grant Wiggins • When it causes relevant inquiry into big ideas and core content • When it provokes deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understandings as well as more questions • When it requires students to consider alternatives When is a Question Essential? Grant Wiggins • When it stimulates vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons • When it sparks meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experience • When it creates opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects Examples Offered by Grant Wiggins • How well can fiction reveal truth? • Why did one particular species/culture/person thrive and another one barely survived or died? • How does what we measure influence how we measure? • How does how we measure influence what we measure? • Is there really a difference between a cultural generalization and a stereotype? Teacher Definition of Essential Question Authentic Education Website “An essential question is when a teacher opens a whole new world to the students. It leads to a higher order of thinking by pulling out content knowledge, connecting the knowledge to the topic at hand and seeing how one can improve. In the common core classes, the summative assessment is usually the final assessment on student outcomes. However, in CTE classes, students have the opportunity to evaluate their projects and think of ways they can improve those projects, it is always an ongoing process.” Posted by: Joyce Miyamoto on June 29, 2011 LDC Uses Essential Questions to Begin Half of the Template Tasks Beginning a template task with a compelling, open-ended question is the starting point for a rigorous teaching task. Essential Question: Argumentation/Analysis Modules • Task 2 ELA Example: Would you recommend A Wrinkle in Time to a middle school reader? After reading this science fiction novel, write a review that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text. • Task 2 Social Studies Example: How did the political views of the signers of the Constitution impact the American political system? After reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, write a report that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text. Essential Question: Argumentation/Analysis Modules Task 2 Science Example: Does genetic testing have the potential to significantly impact how we treat disease? After reading scientific sources, write a report that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. L2 Be sure to acknowledge competing views. L3 Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position. Essential Question: Economics Task 2. SS Argumentation/Analysis L1, 2 [Insert question] After reading ______ (literature or informational texts), write _______ (essay or substitute) that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text(s). L2 Be sure to acknowledge competing views. L3 Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position. Teaching task What combination of market and command systems do you believe creates an ideal mixed economy? After reading informational and opinion texts, write an essay that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. Be sure to acknowledge competing views. Essential Question: Social Studies Argumentation/Analysis L1, 2, 3 [Insert question] After reading ________ (literature or informational texts), write _______ (essay or substitute) that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the text(s). L2 Be sure to acknowledge competing views. L3 Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position. Teaching task What do the immigration laws written between 1880 and 1930 tell us about American values during that time period? After reading primary and secondary sources about U.S. immigration and related legislation between 1880 and 1930, write an essay that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. L2 Be sure to acknowledge competing views. L3 Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position. Writing good essential questions begins with a key question for the teacher: What are the most important concepts that I want my students to learn from the unit or lesson of instruction? Why start a unit, module or lesson with a question? • Essential questions suggest inquiry • Essential questions are a way to set the focus and organize the lesson around key concepts implicit in the standards and curriculum • Essential questions lead to creative and critical thinking Setting the Criteria for an Essential Question • Students should be able to comprehend the question • The language of the question focuses on concepts that are stated in broad terms • Questions for modules or units of study should follow some logical sequence that maps back to the curriculum What follows from the Essential Question? • By asking some follow-up questions, teachers may decide to revise the essential question • The questions will also help the teacher to determine what mini-tasks are needed to support the students in responding to the essential question Basic Prompts Following the Essential Question • What should the student have learned prior to the teaching task? • What will the student need to know in order to answer the question? • What strategies will actively engage the student as they work toward the answer? • What formative assessments will inform if the students are learning the information? • What skills will the students need in order to demonstrate their response to the question? Open Questions Create Complexity of Thought Eleanor Dougherty in her new book, Assignments Matter, discusses essential questions: “A good question provokes examination of texts and ideas, and sometimes situations and conditions.” Literal vs. Essential Questions Eleanor Dougherty goes on to draw this distinction: “Literal questions are good for classroom discussion and quizzes, but open-ended and essential questions give a unit or assignment intellectual heft.” Examples from Assignments Matter • Why did Lago betray Othello? • Is the universe infinite? • What is art? The Power of Essential Questions There is an excellent example in Assignments Matter that describes a Socratic seminar using this question: What is the proper role of the individual in a natural disaster? The Task Follows the Question After reading various perspectives on individual responsibility and examining an interactive map of the 2010 Gulf Oil disaster, write a letter to a younger student that addresses the question and support your position with evidence from the texts. (See page 105, Assignments Matter) Create Essential Questions That Drive Rigorous Tasks Assignment for this module of the course is: 1. Read over pages 1-34 in the Appendix of the LDC Handbook. This section is called: Template Task Collection 1. 2. On pages 3-5 there is a quick reference task chart that shows which tasks begin with essential questions. Create essential questions for tasks 2, 8 and 25. 3. Using one of the template tasks that you elected in #1, write two mini-tasks that would support your students in accomplishing the task. References Wiggins,Grant. www.authenticeducation.com. Hopewell, NJ 08525. David Jakes and Internet Innovations, Inc. 2002. Dougherty, Eleanor (2008) Assignments Matter. Tucson, AZ: EDThink, LLC. Literacy Design Collaborative Handbook (2011).