Summary of Discussion Forum – Essential Questions

Discussion Forum topic; Essential Questions

I have been asked by Doug Mauger to wrap-up my topic with a final summary of key points.  Thank you to everyone who took part for their thoughtful and thought provoking examples and answers to my questions in the discussion threads that I presented.


  • Total posting 41
  • 2 discussion threads
    • 3 Essential Questions on Essential Questions.
      • 39 postings representing 36% of the class contributed
    • Wait Times is an Essential Technique for Essential Questions.
      • 2 postings representing 14 % of the class contributed
      • 2 postings after the close of the Forum Discussion. representing 14 % of the class contributed


Essential Questions are questions not answerable in a single lesson or brief sentence. Their aim is to stimulate thought and to provoke more thought provoking questions. By answering Essential Questions, students/learners are engaged in learning more and thinking more deeply on the topic of inquiry.

Answering Essential Questions allows student/learners to explore their personal experiences of the world and see the connection to the outside world. When Essential Questions are asked to the class it allows students/learners to hear or share others experiences or perspectives on the topic.

  • Implementing Essential Questions. First off it is not easy to create a good essential question. The trick is to find a question that is not too broad nor too difficult. It has to be designed so it can be answered as well as promote further discussion. Designing the perfect Essential Question can take several attempts of asking and getting feedback and then revising.
  • To implement the Essential Question can be done in a Four Phase Process or an 8 Phase Process. The 4 Phase Process is: 1) Introduce a question designed to cause inquiry. 2) Elicit varied responses and question those responses. 3) Introduce and explore new perspectives. 4) Reach tentative closure.
  • Length of Wait-Time is a key effective response strategy to getting the most out of the Essential Questions. The length of wait-time is the period of time of teacher’s silence after posing the question. The longer the teacher waited for students responses the longer the students responses were and their contributions were more relevant. Also the number of next level questions increased and the slower learners and introverts also had a chance to respond.

Essential Questions start students exploring big ideas leading to desired understanding. For each important idea in a unit there should be a companion Essential Question.

The desired behaviour by the end of the course is the students will be autonomous questioners. Meaning they will be askers and pursuers of Essential Questions of every big idea they encounter outside of school without being directed by teachers. Eventually the students will be asking Essential Questions at their work, in their communities and among friends.

Articles (these are all linked to the articles)

Dr. Viktor E. Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning

For a link to his book click here. Author: Stahl,Robert J. Using “Think-Time” and “Wait-Time” Skillfully in the Classroom. ERIC Digest.


McTighe, J. Wiggins, G (2013) A Four- Phase Process For Implementing Essential Questions, 4, 44-49: Essential Questions: Opening doors to Student Understanding.

McTighe, J. Wiggins, G (2013) Developing Questioning Autonomy, 4, 59-60: Essential Questions: Opening doors to Student Understanding

McTighe, J. Wiggins, G (2013) Response Strategies – Wait Time, 4, 52-53; Essential Questions: Opening doors to Student Understanding


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