Posts Tagged ‘Essential Questions’

Essential Questions Revisited

September 13, 2009 3 comments

What constitutes an Essential Question?

Essential questions are important because they connect classroom work to the large and enduring issues that affect our lives. They are the link that make expeditions relevant, connecting the curriculum to actual concerns that young people face” (Umphrey, 2005).

As we began the 2007-08 school year, we discussed the data, reviewed research, and strategically designed a school improvement plan. As part of that plan, our faculty committed to the use of Essential Questions as a means of incorporating higher-order thinking into our classrooms.

We asked ourselves,

“How could the use of high quality, overarching essential questions change the way our students approach learning?”

We explored the fact that this brain-friendly strategy has been recognized as a means of making learning relevant and promoting student inquiry.


I shared with the School Improvement Team that Dr. Whitesell and I must pre-conference, observe, and post-conference 48 teachers by October 15. Listed below is the range of  Essential Questions we have observed during the first three weeks of school.

  • No EQ posted.
  • EQ posted but not referred to throughout the class.
  • EQ posted but not relevant to the content covered in the class.
  • EQ posted at literal level only (stepping stones).
  • Overarching EQ posted and stepping stones questions used to lead students to understanding.


Both stepping stones questions and overarching questions are important for our students as they are introduced to new material and learn to make the connections that will lead them to a deeper, more conceptual understanding of your content. “[Essential Questions ] also provide an invitation into critical thinking, providing chances to coach young people to think clearly, precisely, accurately, and reasonably about things that matter” (Umphrey, 2005).

Posing the right Essential Questions can result in stimulation of inquiry regarding the topic, an increase of student achievement, and  retention of lesson concepts.  Please take time to review your essential questions.  Are you using both overarching and stepping stones questions effectively to engage students in the learning process?


If you would like assistance or a review of this material, please contact our Curriculum Specialist, Heather Mullins to work with you during your planning period.