Grant Wiggins and Denise Wilbur
The well-known aphorism that “writing is revision” applies particularly well to crafting essential questions. With more than 30 years’ experience in teaching through questions and helping educators create great unit-framing queries, we’ve repeatedly seen the wisdom of this saying.
But what makes a question essential in the first place? Essential
questions foster the kinds of inquiries, discussions, and reflections that
help learners find meaning in their learning and achieve deeper thought
and better quality in their work. Essential questions meet the following
n They stimulate ongoing thinking and inquiry.
n They’re arguable, with multiple plausible answers.
n They raise further questions.
n They spark discussion and debate.
n They demand evidence and reasoning because varying answers exist.
n They point to big ideas and pressing issues.
n They fruitfully recur throughout the unit or year.
n The answers proposed are tentative and may change in light of new
experiences and deepening understanding (McTighe & Wiggins, 2013).
Here are some examples of good essential questions: To what extent
does where you live influence how you live? What should we make of
outliers—error, anomaly, or insight? What should our diet and wellness
plans be in a world of constantly changing advice from experts?