Connecting the Enduring Understanding to the Essential Questions


Understanding Essential Questions (EQ's)

Essential Questions help us organize our thinking and approach curricular design through creative choice that highlight the focus of a course or a unit of study. The best essential questions are open-ended and provocative, written in "kid-friendly" language, and designed to focus instruction for uncovering the important ideas of the content. FROM RUBICON ATLAS

Essential Questions Encourage:

  •     New Thinking
  •     Genuine Inquiry
  •     Fresh Insights
  •     Stimulating Ideas
  •     Motivated Learners
  •     Active Debate
  •     Intellectual Engagement

Visit our public mapping database for sample curriculum maps with essential questions:


Big Ideas Definition

A big idea is a concept that embraces the 'why' we're teaching something. It's a declarative statement that is a cue to the teacher. A 'big idea' is a reminder of the core learning, the context and the relationship of the unit to concepts that transcend grade levels. They help to provide focus on specific content for all learners.

Big Idea Samples

In this video, Marie explains that faculty typically fall in 1 of 3 curriculum development categories - designers, adapters and implementers. All 3 are useful in a school setting. She also offers resources for big idea samples.

Big Ideas and Enduring Understandings

Big ideas and enduring understandings have been and can be used interchangeably. Marie refers to big ideas when referring to the 'why' in unit planning, and enduring understandings when referring to specific concepts. However, she suggests that teams calibrate language as a faculty.


Big Ideas and Essential Questions (EQ's)

Internal alignment in a unit plan is an iterative process, and the relationship between the big ideas and essential questions should be the focus. The EQ's should be in direct alignment to the big ideas, illustrated through numbering or color-coding systems. It should be noted too, that where the big ideas are written primarily for the teacher, and can be academic in tone, the essential questions are for the student.

Essential Questions Definition

EQ's can be described as the organizing structure of a unit plan, comparable to a chapter in a book. They are different from a topical or subject based question. The EQ is a cue to the student about what they are learning and why they are learning it. It should be written from the perspective of the student using "I", "me" and "my" language. Two to 5 essential questions are typical per 6-week unit plan. We don't want to shift EQ's for each lesson.  

Essential Questions Samples

Here, Marie shares resources for strong essential question samples