Does Your EQ Pass the Google Test?

Does Your EQ Pass the Google Test?

I have been thinking a lot about questions lately and Jim Laney’s recent post brought some of my thinking to the forefront. Essential Questions are the corner stone, in my opinion, to a good inquiry-based classroom. In thinking about this, I went back to one of my favorite books Understanding by Design (I lived by this book when I was in the classroom). I love this quote about Essential Questions from the book: The most vital discipline-bound questions open up thinking and possibilities for everyone — novices and experts alike.  They signal that inquiry and open-mindedness are central to expertise, that we must always be learners…  [Essential questions] are those that encourage, hint at, even demand transfer beyond the particular topic in which we first encounter them.  They should therefore recur over the years to promote conceptual connections and curriculum coherence. (108) Creating good Essential Questions is difficult but so rewarding when you get the right one. In the age of Google where knowlege is so quickly accessible, I think educators could use Google to see just how good their Essential Question is. Am I asking a question that Google can answer? If the answer is yes…then maybe the question doesn’t need to be asked or maybe it needs to be expanded to ask the students to do more than simply answer the question. The idea that Wiggins and McTighe propose above is one I used while teaching 6th grade social studies in Saudi Arabia. Working with my mentor (every teacher should have one) we sat down and came up with an Overarching Essential Question that would drive the whole year’s curriculum. The question was rather simple: What makes a civilization great? The curriculum had us studying, what it considered to be, all the great ancient civilizations, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, etc. As we went through the year, we kept coming back to this essential theme. There were essential questions in each unit that tied back to our overarching essential question. The final test for each unit was simple. Why do you think this civilzation is considered great? Sure I could have asked them about dates, leaders, ect. But that’s not what matters, even today after teaching the course, I couldn’t answer those simple memorization questions. Instead, I asked one question repeated time and time again as we studied these civilzations. We had other unit specific essential questions that lasted the length...

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