Framing Essential Questions
We are fighting a long school history of topical research. For decades students have been sent to the library to "find out about" some topic. This tradition has led to information gathering but little analysis or thought.
Essential questions set students and staff free from this tedious and wasteful ritual. Research becomes motivating and meaningful. An essential question has the following attributes:
Essential questions reside at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1954). They require students to EVALUATE (make a thoughtful choice between options, with the choice based upon clearly stated criteria), to SYNTHESIZE (invent a new or different version) or to ANALYZE (develop a thorough and complex understanding through skillful questioning).
Essential questions spark our curiosity and sense of wonder. They derive from some deep wish to understand some thing which matters to us.
Answers to essential questions cannot be found. They must be invented. It is something like cooking a great meal. The researcher goes out on a shopping expedition for the raw ingredients, but "the proof is in the pudding." Students must construct their own answers and make their own meaning from the information they have gathered. They create insight.
Essential questions engage students in the kinds of real life applied problem-solving suggested by nearly every new curriculum report or outline curriculum standards
Excerpts from --
From Now On
Vol 6|No 1|September|1996
The material first appeared in a series of six articles published by Technology Connection commencing in May, 1995. The series outlined the seven stages required to complete a full research investigation using a model called the Research Cycle.