Essential questions are open-ended—relevant to academia, students’ lives and the world beyond school—expressed in student-friendly language. They encourage diverse thinking and further inquiry.
Essential questions can come from students or teachers, can be created at the start of a project or later in the planning processes, and can be revised and revisited. Essential questions often appear simple, but encourage multidisciplinary thinking, deep inquiry, rigorous reflection, and even differing conclusions as students explore alternative answers.
Essential questions are simple in their language, yet complex in their content. An essential question connects abstract thinking and hands-on production and sustains it through a project for every student in the community. Welcome all learners and focus on deep themes that make this work important.
Open-ended questions offer multiple entry points for diverse responses so that each learner finds access and challenge. Essential questions span a project yet can be personalized to individuals, specific avenues for research, or more. All learners see themselves in a good essential question.
Essential questions work their way into each student’s life, engaging family, community, and friends in meaningful, rigorous conversation in and out of school. Essential questions are grounded in relevant communities and lead to purposeful learning and action.
Students, families, experts, and community members create and interact with essential questions by integrating their perspectives and personalizing the questions themselves. Responses may differ and evolve as the community engages with the question.