• How can we structure school decision making to support cumulative learning?
  • How should we design our curriculum to prepare learners for their future?
  • How does curriculum mapping serve as a HUB for all initiatives regarding teaching and learning?

Essential questions

These are an exceptional tool for clearly and precisely communicating the pivotal points of the curriculum.
“What are the most important concepts?” We often avoid the heart of the curriculum and cover the periphery.
Student assessments should focus on essential learning, not merely a task for its own sake.
The essential question is just that: a question. When the curriculum is formed around questions, the clear message to the students is that you are probing with them.
The essential question also is an organizer. To structure an array of activities it’s wise to group activities under essential questions.
A set of essential questions offer focus throughout a unit of study.
The intention is to provide a blueprint of desired goals.
Meaningful and clear essential questions can serve as scope and sequence to the structure of the study.
A set of essential questions provide an advanced organizer for a curricular experience.
They are the range and parameters of the study.

Criteria for Essential Questions

Each child should be able to understand the question.The language of the questions should be written in broad, organizational terms.
The questions are umbrella-like organizers and should reflect a heading for the focus of a set of activities.
The question should reflect your conceptual priorities. Points to the essence of what your students will examine in the course of their study.
The essential question forces the teacher to choose the conceptual outcome for the students.
Each question should be distinct and substantial.
Questions should not be repetitious.
The questions should be realistic given the amount of time allocated for the unit or course. It has been my observation that 2 to 5 questions is the average for a unit of study that ranges from 3 weeks to about 12 weeks.
There should be a logical sequence to a set of essential questions. The test of a good series of questions is that you are able to explain to your students the rationale for the sequence.
The questions should be posted in the classroom. The message to the learners is: These questions are essential for you.
The questions provide a constant visual organizer and focus for the learner – and for the teacher as well.