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understanding essential questions

on February 10, 2015

As educators, we need to raise questions to get the learner engaged in genuine critical thinking. Then what kind of questions are quality questions that can really help cultivate the learner’s deep thinking and help the learner learn to raise thought-provoking questions too? Essential questions. The article “What is an Essential Question?” by Grant Wiggins gives us a very good illustration about essential questions and how these essential questions can keep us pondering and reflecting on our learning, our work and our life as a thoughtful person and how these questions can help the learner to learn effectively. I especially like the three connotations of the concept Grant explains and the following descriptions:

“A question is essential when it:

  • causes genuine and relevant inquiry into the big ideas and core content;
  • provokes deep thought, lively discussion, sustained inquiry, and new understanding as well as more questions;
  • requires students to consider alternatives, weigh evidence, support their ideas, and justify their answers;
  • stimulates vital, on-going rethinking of big ideas, assumptions, and prior lessons;
  • sparks meaningful connections with prior learning and personal experiences;
  • naturally recurs, creating opportunities for transfer to other situations and subjects.”
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