Musings on having a course Essential Question

For several years, I have used Essential Questions in my classroom. Many of these questions were changed when we changed units or in conjunction with projects. I was bothered because it seemed like I spent more time thinking of a new essential question for the next unit and we never really spent enough time on the previous Essential Question.

I, therefore, spent a great deal of time this summer reflecting on what I perceived the purpose of Essential Questions to be. I also reviewed the Essential Questions posted online by various individuals and groups. Finally, I again reviewed my state core for each class I teach. I came to the conclusion that it might be possible to create ONE course Essential Question.

With this in mind, I worked on crafting an appropriate Essential Question for each course. In my opinion, these questions needed to be very open ended but based on my state core. I also want the focus to get beyond my classroom walls so we can possibly interact with other subjects or parts of the world.

Here are the Course Essential Questions I plan to use this year. (Links are to my class pages that have a wordle from the appropriate state core.)

7th Grade Integrated Science: How does structure affect things?

Biology (9th grade): What makes life beautiful?

I welcome feedback and comments from my PLN regarding this endeavor. Please let me know how you think this may benefit - or detract from the teaching process.

Views: 44

Tags: Essential, Question

Comment by Glen Westbroek on August 14, 2009 at 7:59am
I received many comments from my friends on Twitter regarding these two questions. Based on these comments, I made some revised questions. I'm posting the revised questions in a google form for voting. I'll make my final choice on Monday 8/17. Please participate in the vote.
Comment by Shawn Roner on August 15, 2009 at 8:25pm
Perhaps you should consider having a few essential questions for each course, maybe five to seven. Also, it might be helpful to consider the following criteria when constructing the questions: Does the central topic of the question reside at the heart of the subject area being studied (e.g., biology, history, etc.)? Does the question present a good opportunity to promote engagement (I think your questions certainly do this!). I think, in terms of the first question, we need to consider the topics or "big ideas" biologist consider important today. I suppose many of these ideas are incorporated, to a certain degree, into state content standards. Nevertheless, I think in order for a teacher to truly be effective in the classroom, the teacher needs to organize the content around not only state requirements but also the teacher's strengths and particular interests.
Comment by Glen Westbroek on August 15, 2009 at 9:16pm

Thanks so much for your response. Both questions reside at the heart of the state standards for the subject. In the past, I've had many different essential questions for each course. This change to one question is designed to help me engage students in the core more deeply throughout the year. I'm glad you think these questions provide good opportunities to promote engagement as that is my number one goal in the classroom.
Comment by Glen Westbroek on August 16, 2009 at 9:48pm
ased on the responses to the votes and suggestions from others, I've selected the following Course Essential Questions:

7th Grade: What would happen without structure?

Biology: How are natural phenomena represented?


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