What Is an Essential Question?

Here are the seven defining characteristics of a good 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.

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