On 16 May 2022, Jenny and I presented to Heads of Departments and Subject Leads on framing the curriculum through essential questions, because:
Disciplinary study is focused by engagement with big questions, both contemporary and enduring
These big questions also balance the knowledge required of the discipline with the skills required by the discipline
Because these big questions essentially define academic disciplines, we may refer to them as essential questions
This curriculum stance on essential questions and the process of answering them makes inquiry an essential pedagogical feature of a liberal education
The accompanying PPT is mostly self-explanatory, and ends with an example from Year 8 English of the first iteration of a template that reflects on the unit of work in terms of topical essential questions, overarching essential questions, and entry question(s).
Topical essential questions are concerned with uncovering what is most important about the topic being studied in a unit of work, and so may recur in the same topic in later years
Overarching essential questions are concerned with uncovering what is of broader disciplinary concern, and so may occur in other topics in the same year or recur in the same topic in later years
Entry question(s) are simple, thought-provoking questions that open a unit of work – they spark discussion as a lead-in to the unit of work and its essential questions
Jenny produced an accompanying PDF of sample entry question(s), topical essential questions, and overarching essential questions for all subjects currently offered at Blanchelande drawn from internal and/ or external curriculum documents (see below for first page).
Thanks for sharing this Darryl. What a huge amount of work you have both done on this! Did you get much help and collaboration from the teachers or did you have to come up with all these questions yourself? How did the teachers react to your presentation? So many questions but thanks for the question document I think it will be very useful to share!
Thanks, Elizabeth – it was a lot of work, so very pleased to be able to share it. Jenny developed the questions herself from internal and external curriculum specifications, which would be our starting point for any collaboration with classroom colleagues anyway, but was made more difficult because we weren’t actually collaborating with them on these questions, just providing them with examples. The presentation was very well received by classroom colleagues and Governors on the Education Subcommittee, and we have subsequently collaborated with a number of colleagues on questions for their unit planners, which I hope to share more about.