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Engaging Learners Through Essential Questions - MMSA Presentation

This is my presentation on Essential Questions (part of the Backward Design model by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins) given at the MN Middle School Association annual conference. #MMSAInspire

Mike Rogers

on 29 November 2014

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Transcript of Engaging Learners Through Essential Questions - MMSA Presentation

Mike Rogers (Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School)
Learners Through
2013-14 Faculty Learning Community
So What Is
Essential Question
Use icons?
How will EQs Impact You?

Dr. Kirstin Bratt (Academic Learning Center, SCSU)
Dr. Kate Pound (Atmospheric & Hydrologic Sciences, SCSU)
Mike Rogers (8th Grade Science Teacher, SRRMS)
Dr. Nancy Sundheim (Environmental and Technological Studies, SCSU)
without a plan
disparate facts
without meaning
Teaching by luck,
not by design
Understanding by Design Stages
Stage 1
: What are your desired goals? (Target)

Stage 2
: How will you when know you have
achieved these goals? (Assessment)

Stage 3
: What steps will you take to reach
these goals? (Instruction)
STAGE 1: Goals
Standards (State, National, etc.)
Enduring Understandings
Essential Questions
1. An EQ is
open ended
- there will be no single, right answer.

2. An EQ is
engaging and thought provoking

3. An EQ demands
higher order thinking skills
to answer it
such as evaluation, analysis, prediction, inference, etc.

4. An EQ leads to important,
transferable ideas
Understandings) within/across disciplines.

5. An EQ
creates more questions
than it answers.

6. An EQ
requires justification and support
- not just a yes/no.

7. An EQ is
- it keeps popping up again and again.
Recommendations for Essential Questions...
Fewer EQs seem to be better (1-2 per “unit”).
EQs should NOT have a clear answer. Encourage disagreement.
EQs answers that “flip” partway through a unit have high value.
The best EQs shouldn't be answerable even by you.
EQs are most engaging when the answer involves something personal about the student.
EQs are NOT googleable. :)
EQs are
hard to write. Don't get discouraged.
It IS worth it!
Try to find a colleague to collaborate with. It is invaluable.
Embrace mistakes - not all your EQs will rock their socks.
Seek constant feedback from students as you go.
Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School

6th Grade: 344 students
7th Grade: 327 students
8th Grade: 321 students

FRL: 33%

Class Size Range: 35-38 students

So... Do EQs Make Any Difference?
I guess that's our essential question! ;)
Open Response #2:
What impact did our Essential Questions have on your motivation to work hard?

1. "It helps my motivation because you have to find deep answers that people
normally wouldn't have thought about, but they help you understand more
because you have to think harder about them."

2. "Well some of them made no sense so I wanted to figure out what they meant!"

3. "It made me work harder to understand but yet it also confused me a bit on what
they were asking. I thought they really helped me throughout the whole year. I
hope Mr. Rogers doesn't change a thing!"

4. "The essential questions made me more motivated to work harder and learn
more. Having essential questions made the projects and finals of each topic
harder but I feel like they benefited me because I learned more about the topic
and myself."

Open Response #3:
Give me your best reason(s) for either continuing or dropping EQs for next year?

1. "I would continue essential questions because it gives the projects a reason to be
done. Also it helps you see the main idea of the lesson."

2. "I think you should keep the EQs because they give people a deeper meaning to
something that should be simple."

3. "Continue the questions. If they helped me (and I'm not good in science) they
really would help other students achieve their goals and get through the year
how they wanted it, not someone else's way."

4. "A reason you should continue the essential questions is because they mean a
whole lot more. They all mean a lot and make a big difference. They get you to
think more and get the big idea behind all the lessons."

22 students volunteered to participate.
Of those, 13 students also completed an end of the year survey
with special thanks to Dr. Lalita Subrahmanyan, director of CETL
& Dr. Dan Bittman, Sauk Rapids-Rice Superintendent
Open Response #1:
What impact did our Essential Questions have on your learning?

1. "They have taught us to question everything and help us understand that
there is a deeper meaning to everything."

2. "I have to be honest at first I hated the idea of the essential questions!!! But
they started to grow on me so... Now I'm okay with them... But some of
them were super confusing! So yeah smart ideas though."

3. "It helped me realize that I play an important role in my learning process
just as much as my teacher."

4. "The essential questions helped me to learn more about each topic and fully
understand the meaning of why we learned about each activity."

1. “I was kind of surprised how interactive it was.”

2. “I thought it was really weird. I was so frustrated!”

3. “We just do things every day, so we feel
comfortable interacting with each other”
Was it hard to adjust?
1. “He taught us in the beginning of the year to question
everything and not just take what people say.”

2. “He had us figure everything out for ourselves and not just
follow what the majority says.”

3. “Mindset. You need to stay in a growth mind-set not a
fixed mind-set, where you are staying the same. You need
to explore – get out there and find something new.”

4. “Essential questions – I think I’m always going to
'who’s my best teacher?'
– myself.”
What are the 3 top things that will stay with you into your adulthood?
1. “Maybe we spend 1% of time on notes, the rest
of the time we are doing things.”

2. “For our rock test, we had to look at them and
figure them out for ourselves.”

3. “Usually, it’s interactive. We do things ourselves.”

4. “Every day is a work day, we get things done.”
How much time do you spend
doing things vs. taking notes?
Stage 1: Goals
Focus, Clarity, & Depth
(for you & your students)
Content & kids
share the stage
Stage 2: Assessment
How DO I assess this stuff?
How do I scaffold & support so my students CAN answer the EQs?
What SHOULD I be assessing?
Stage 3: Instruction
Inquiry in HD
The Socratic Method
So what did I do with my EQs?
Sustained use of EQs leads to...
Deeper student understandings
High levels of engagement, motivation, & effort
High quality inquiry learning
Full transcript