Good questions encourage learners to look at situations differently and often their answer can change as they learn new information. A strong essential question will allow students to keep revisiting that question throughout the school year as they explore different units of study. Here is a great resource of essential questions you can use for your courses, units, or lessons.
Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins provide an excellent definition of what makes a question essential:
[Essential questions] are not answerable with finality in a single lesson or a brief sentence—and that’s the point. Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions, including thoughtful student questions, not just pat answers. They are provocative and generative. By tackling such questions, learners are engaged in uncovering the depth and richness of a topic that might otherwise be obscured by simply covering it.
If you are looking for some examples of quality essential questions Terry Heick at Teach Thought provides some great examples for arts and humanities lessons. Below are some of the essential questions that stood out to me:
How can literature serve as a vehicle for social change?
How do individuals develop values and beliefs?
How are people transformed through their relationships with others?
What are the positive and negative aspects of both chaos and order?
What are the essential liberties?
What is the relationship between privacy, freedom, and security?
When does government have the right to restrict the freedoms of people?
When is the restriction of freedom a good thing?
How does the media shape our view of the world and ourselves?
In a culture where we are bombarded with other people trying to define us, how do we make decisions for ourselves?
What are enduring questions and conflicts that writers (and their cultures) grappled with hundreds of years ago and are still relevant today?
Why are there universal themes in literature–that is, themes that are of interest or concern to all cultures and societies?
What are the characteristics or elements that cause a piece of literature to endure?
What is the purpose of: science fiction? satire? historical novels, etc.?
How do we know what we know?
Why do we bother to study/examine the past, present or future?
What are the recurrent motifs of history and in what ways have they changed or remained the same?
These are just a small selection of the great essential questions this resource offers. If you found these questions interesting or are looking for other great examples of essential questions be sure to check out the full article.
Photo: qimono / Pixabay
Source: Teach Thought