Wiggins & McTigue definition: ―questions that are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence… Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions — including thoughtful student questions — not just pat answers‖ (106). ―instead of thinking of content as stuff to be covered, consider knowledge and skilsl as the means of addressing questions central to understanding key issues in your subject‖ (107).
Put them up in your classroom! Common mis-understandings – Essential questions are simply lesson objectives reworded in an interrogative format. They are not – How do we use semicolons? Essential questions are posted on the board and changed each day to reflect the goals of the lesson. Essential questions will be answered that day (week, unit, year, etc.).
According to Wiggins and McTighe, essentialquestions actually have one or more of thefollowing 4 connotations: Essential questions are ―important questions that recur throughout all our lives.‖ They are ―broad in scope and timeless by nature.‖ Essential questions refer to ―core ideas and inquiries within a discipline.‖ They ―point to the core of big ideas in a subject and to the frontiers of technical knowledge. They are historically important and alive in the field.‖ Essential questions help ―students effectively inquire and make sense of important but complicated ideas, knowledge, and know-how — a bridge to findings that experts may believe are settled but learners do not yet grasp or see as valuable.‖ Essential questions ―will most engage a specific and diverse set of learners.‖ They ―hook and hold the attention of your students.‖ (108-109)
The importance of intent… Inframing essential questions, we must first as what our intent is. If we don‘t know ―why we pose it, how we intend students to tackle it, and what we expect for learning activities and assessments,‖ we don‘t really know really know what we want (110).
How many? Inaddition, essential questions should be few in number — ―two to five per unit‖ (121). The authors argue against composing too many questions, as ―prioritiz[ing] content‖ enables students to ―focus on a few key questions‖ (121). We‘re looking for a few good questions!
Tips for Essential Questions… Theauthors have a great list of tips for using essential questions on p. 121, but one idea jumped out in me. ―Help students to personalize the questions. Have them share examples, personal stories, and hunches. Encourage them to bring in clippings and artifacts to help make the questions come alive‖ (121)
The value of framing a courseor unit in terms of essentialquestions is invaluable: “The most vital discipline-bound questions open up thinking and possibilities for everyone — novices and experts alike. They signal that inquiry and open-mindedness are central to expertise, that we must always be learners… [Essential questions] are those that encourage, hint at, even demand transfer beyond the particular topic in which we first encounter them. They should therefore recur over the years to promote conceptual connections and curriculum coherence.” (108)
Devise your own essentialquestion for your unit… Using Wiggins & McTigue‘s first meaning, devise an essential question All of us have some line of inquiry, some essential questions, that we haven‘t answered yet. In posing essential questions of this type, we teach our student that ―education is not just about learning ‗the answer‘ but about learning how to learn‖ (108).
Closing Thoughts… ―Our students need a curriculum that treats them more like potential performers than sideline observers‖ (122). Students describe school or classes as something to get through. No wonder! They aren‘t really often asked to participate in it, to use what they know or think about what they‘re learning beyond regurgitating for a test! The thought that struck me as I finished the chapter is that students learn in spite of school too often, and not because of school.
Understanding defined… ―An understanding is an important inference, drawn from the experience of experts, stated as a specific and useful generalization‖. ―An understanding refers to transferable, big ideas having enduring value beyond a specific topic‖. It ―involves abstract, counterintuitive, and easily misunderstood ideas‘. (It) ―is best acquired by uncovering and doing the subject‖. (It) summarizes important strategic principles in skill areas‖. –pgs. 128-129
2 types of Understandings… ―Topical Understandings – are unit- specific‖. ―Overarching Understandings – are broader and (as the name implies) offer a possible bridge to other units and courses‖. – p.145
Understandings… Students should understand that… A full sentence generalization Derived from the NOUNS & ADJECTIVES within the BIG IDEAS of the GOAL. "knowledge" refers to discrete facts that can be taken as givens, "understanding" refers to the theory or inference that we make from those facts
Understandings…A focus on understanding means that we must also be mindful of potential student misunderstandings and typical transfer deficits. Establishing clear and explicit goals also means predicting the trouble spots that are likely to arise in teaching and assessing.
NAEP 8th-grade mathematics –constructed response test item -National Assessment of Educational Progress http://nces.ed.gov/ How many buses does the army need to transport 1,128 soldiers if each bus holds 36 soldiers?
More than 30% of students: 31, remainder 12Remainder 23
Understandings… Whatare indicators that someone might ―know‖ something without really understanding it?
What is Understanding? Someone who understands… 1. 2. 3. 4.
What is Understanding? Men just don‘t understand women. He knows the historical facts but doesn‘t understand the meaning. I understand what she is going through. I didn‘t really understand it until I had to use it. Does anyone here understand French? I now understand that I was mistaken. I can understand the person‘s point of view.
6 Facets of Understanding… Explanation – in one‘s own words, with support and justification Interpretation – making meaning Application – transfer to new situations Perspective – other points of view, critical stance Empathy – walk in the shoes of others Self-Knowledge – knowing thyself
Transfer: the linkThe six facets link the stages Use the six facets as the test of whether you are truly measuring “understanding” of the big ideas/essential questions
ExplanationInsightful connections and illustrationsRequire students to explain what they know and good reasons in support of itExplain“why” it is correct
Interpretation: what does itmean? Show significance Reveal importance Recognize relevance
Application: use knowledgeeffectively“show understanding by using it, adapting it, customizing it”New situations, realistic context
Perspective: critical andinsightful points of view Casting familiar ideas in a new light Expose questionable and unexamined assumptions
Empathy: walk in another’sshoes Ability to get inside another person’s feelings and viewpoint Differs from perspective Inside versus outside view
Self-knowledge: Wisdom toknow one’s ignorance How thoughts and actions inform as well as prejudice understanding Must first understand ourselves before we understand the world
Big Ideas, Understandings, andEssential Questions… Big Idea Topic or Content Standard EssentialUnderstanding Question
Knowledge…What we want students toknow phrased as Students will know… Vocabulary Terminology Definitions Key factual information Formulas Critical details Important events and people Sequence and timeline
Skills…What we want students to be ableto do Phrase as “Students will be able to…” Basic skills – decoding, arithmetic computation Communication skills – listening, speaking, writing Thinking skills – compare, infer, analyze, interpret Research, inquiry, investigation skills Study skills – notetaking Interpersonal group skills
1. Consider: What does abeginning driver need to KNOWand to able TO DO? Listthe important KNOWLEDE and SKILLS for a driver.
2. Now, consider: What does a good,experienced driver UNDERSTAND that abeginner (or lousy) driver does not? Listimportant UNDERSTANDINGS for a driver.
3. Finally,consider: What is the ultimate (long-term) goal of an effective Driver‘s Education Program? Summarize the Goal in 1-2 sentences. (the content standard)
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