Tools & Practices for Think Ponds

Essential Questions

Use essential questions to help frame the vision and work of your Think Pond.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, whose books have revolutionized teaching in many schools, present these criteria for what defines an essential question:

  1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer.
  2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.
  3. Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction. It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone.
  4. Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.
  5. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
  6. Requires support and justification, not just an answer.
  7. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

Essential questions are most frequently used in schools. Teachers use them to deepen students’ thinking skills and understanding. Why not begin to adopt a group thinking strategy that is familiar to the next generation entering the work force?

Some teachers also use essential questions in their own professional learning to develop more thoughtful approaches to instruction. Why not try to use them in a broader range of adult learning situations?

Link to Essential Questions for thinking about the four enterprises.

Not all of these approaches require you to work with others, but most will steer you toward collaborative relationships. Those relationships could be the beginning of your Think Pond.