The Relevance, Transparency, and Open-Endedness of Essential Questions Literature
When we are asked to evaluate a piece of literature, we should look for the answers to four essential questions: Relevance, Transparency, and Open-mindedness. In this article, we will take a look at these four qualities and consider their importance. We’ll also discuss the relevance of each question to the author’s work. Ultimately, these four criteria will help us choose a piece of literature that’s both interesting and useful.
The emergence of essential questions has impacted many aspects of our culture and education, but one of the most exciting implications is that they encourage genuine inquiry into the big ideas that shape our world. Professor David Perkins describes essential questions as “questions that inspire wonder and curiosity about the human condition.” While most classroom questions are procedural and superficial, essential questions challenge students to engage their lived experiences and imagination to answer big-picture questions. The result is a more informed student, more interested in what they’re learning, and more engaged in the subject matter.
Essential questions provide an organizing framework for unit plans and short-term learning. By asking students to ask and reflect on these questions, educators can unpack complex subject matter, focusing on enduring understandings. The 40/40 rule helps shape curriculum plans. Using essential questions helps teachers organize course content and guide instructional choices. It is the teachers who determine the depth and breadth of the curriculum, rather than textbook companies. This allows teachers to cull and curate course content based on their interests, training, and accumulated expertise.
The importance of essential questions in teaching literature is widely recognized. Essential questions engage students as investigators and help them develop a deeper understanding of the text. Essential questions are content-specific and lead to a real-world moral. The best essential questions have no right or wrong answers, and allow students to explore and ponder them over time. However, they cannot be used on the first day of a unit, as they are meant to be asked and pondered over time.
This chapter explores the design of learning materials for transparency and discusses how open learning has changed the way transparency is conceived and realized. It examines the evolution of transparency from an emphasis on individual and interface design to one that emphasizes multiple users and collaborative learning. The chapter identifies eight essential elements of design for transparency: flexibility, interactivity, visualization, production, and distribution. Specific examples of transparency in learning materials will be described, and the chapter also explores its implications as a global effort.
Another example is Y Combinator’s Ambition, a startup that reports its performance data as fantasy football teams. Users can create teams of players, based on their behavior, and make improvements to their team. Similarly, companies like Amazon and Tesco warehouse workers use handheld computers and wear armbands to monitor their performance. UPS trucks are equipped with sensors to monitor their locations. These innovations are a result of transparency in essential questions literature.
In addition to improving reproducibility, researchers must disclose their procedures. Substantial human error is a major contributor to irreproducibility in research. This can occur during data collection and experiment analysis. Fortunately, groups are developing systems to address this problem. But education is the key to reproducible research. Moreover, research is only as good as the methods used in it. This is one of the most important principles in reproducible research.
A key aspect of effective educational practice is the transferability of essential questions. Essential questions help students engage in content knowledge and draw connections between ideas, subjects, and disciplines. In addition, these questions are useful for promoting conceptual connections and curriculum coherence. A successful instructional approach demonstrates its ability to engage students at various learning levels and promote higher-order thinking. Here are some guidelines for the transferability of essential questions:
As with any transfer, there are many complexities involved. Each scholar, researcher, and educator has their own perspective on the process of transfer. The same holds true for writing classes that are beyond first-year composition classes. The transfer process is complex because students bring different prior knowledge experiences, varying experiences, and external benchmarks to the learning environment. Regardless of whether a student has taken the same writing class, there are different barriers to success.
In the open-endedness of essential questions literature, a central idea or concept is highlighted and pointed to as an important question. It often sparks further inquiry and discussion. An essential question is important because it is historically significant and “alive” in its field. For instance, “what is healthful eating?” has been the subject of heated debate among nutritionists for more than half a century. Scholars are increasingly aware of the social history of authors and of the potential biases of their historical narratives.
An open-ended question can be a valuable tool for communicating actual achievement. It offers a window into students’ thinking and requires time to score. These questions are often used to assess real student achievement. This approach is a good choice when the outcome of a test is unclear or students are asked to explain their thinking. Open-ended questions allow the educator to communicate actual achievement, which helps the student understand the significance of the test.
Besides providing a framework for student learning, essential questions can also serve as a way to target standards and encourage deeper understanding. The key is to find a way to incorporate open-ended questions into your daily routine. These questions will not only engage students but will also inspire deeper student thinking and reflection. Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, who are devotees of Understanding by Design, provide practical guidance for using open-ended questions to engage students.
Essential questions reflect key inquiries within a discipline. They point to the big ideas of the subject or the frontiers of technical knowledge. Importantly, they are both historically significant and still relevant today. Essential questions are often alive within a field, allowing students to discover the significance of the subject matter, and empowering teachers to make their own course decisions. Many examples of essential questions are “How many dimensions are there in space-time?” and “Are global weather patterns common or unusual?”
Jacobs notes that essential questions provide clarity and precision in the presentation of ideas and findings. These questions also guide learners to important understandings and conclusions. They become the end-points of ideas, subjects, disciplines, and landmarks that help them reach the final destination. As such, they can help students develop greater skills and coherence of content knowledge. But, there are some common characteristics of essential questions. Here are three that distinguish them.
In essence, essential questions guide teaching and learning decisions. They ground intellectual pursuits and provide a sense of relevance and purpose. Good questions guide students to dig deeper, spur them to ask their own questions, and focus on the most important parts of the subject. They are the backbones of a successful course. They help students develop higher-order thinking skills and develop transferable ideas. They are also great for framing unit plans.
The purpose of essential questions in literature is to promote critical thinking by encouraging students to ask and answer questions about the texts they’re reading. By developing critical questions, essential questions invite students to consider the complexity of a subject and to make connections with other texts and experiences. Students often revisit essential questions throughout a unit, in writing, and in conversations. Ultimately, essential questions deepen their understanding of a subject and of themselves.
An essential question is a nonjudgmental, meaningful question that encourages students to explore the information they already know. It also encourages students to gauge opinions and formulate plans of action or attack. Unlike trivial questions, essential questions are meant to be chewed on, not tossed out quickly. This makes them essential. And they are also the most effective method of learning for a wide variety of learners, from the most elitist to the most reluctant.
An essential question should be a fundamental question that exemplifies the subject under study. A student’s response to the question should be compelling and make them reflect on the subject at hand. It should also be open-ended and allow for further exploration. Ultimately, an essential question should also inspire students to generate other, related questions. They should appeal to their emotional responses, too. These questions are crucial to the purpose of essential questions in literature.