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5 Essential Learning Questions

5 Essential Learning Questions

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson you will review the 5 essential questions for learning and evaluate how they connect to the work of the PLC.

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Source: Image of action plan, Public Domain, http://tinyurl.com/mxbclh3; Image light, Public Domain, http://tinyurl.com/p4pfjr7

Video Transcription

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Welcome. I'm Tricia Fyfe. And in today's video lesson, I will cover the topic of essential learning questions. As we learn about this topic, we will work toward several learning objectives. And together, we'll use the following two questions to guide our learning in this video lesson. What are the five essential questions for learning? And how and why should we use these questions in our professional learning communities?

So let's start by talking about what are those essential learning questions? Our first essential learning question is what did the students need to know and be able to do? What are our goals and objectives for students? What are the standards that we need those students to meet if we're thinking about a lesson or a unit? What are those unit objectives? What do the students need to be able to do at the end of the unit or the end of a lesson?

The next question we need to think about is how will we teach them? Will technology be a component of our classroom? Will we use one on one models? Or will we use a traditional learning format? What pedagogy are we thinking about using, and why? We need to think about the question, how will we know if they know or can't do something? So how will we measure where our students are at along the way? How will we measure if they can actually do what we are asking them to do?

Our next essential question is what will we do if they don't know or they aren't able to do something? So what strategies do we have in place if our students have not met our standards, goals, and objectives? Is this something we can cover with those students independently? Or are we thinking that we're going to use a lesson or an activity for the whole class to review those concepts?

The last question that we need to address as teachers is what will we do if they're already there? If our students are already where we want them to be at the end of a lesson or unit, do we have strategies in place? These are extremely important questions for you to know as a teacher in guiding your daily activities, as well as your overall units and lesson plans.

Let's talk a little further about these. How do these essential learning questions fit into our professional learning communities? These questions are extremely critical to the development of our smart goals. Remember, those smart goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and they have a time frame attached to them. These questions can be drivers in conversations that we have with our professional learning communities, where we're developing action plans. Together we can develop a plan, do, study, act, or a PDSA with our group.

Let's talk about what we learned today. We discussed the following questions. What are the five essential questions for learning? And remember, those questions are what do the students need to know and be able to do? How will we teach them? How will we know if they know or if they can't do something? What will we do if they don't know or they aren't able to do something? And what will we do if they are ready there, if they already have the learning that we're asking them to do in the unit or the lesson?

And these are extremely important questions for you to really think about as teachers in all aspects of your planning. We also talked about how and why should we use these questions in our professional learning communities? Remember, we talked briefly about the fact that you can use these when you're developing those smart goals. As well, they're great as a tool for conversations and development of action plans around specific problems that you are facing as a teacher. Now that you're more familiar with these essential questions, let's reflect. What are the benefits to using essential questions when working within a professional learning community?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing in lesson, essential learning questions. I hope you found value in this video lesson and are able to apply these questions and tools to your own teaching. For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please see the additional resources section that accompanies the video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks, useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on “5 Essential Learning Questions”


(00:00- 00:27) Intro/Objectives

(00:28- 02:27) What are Essential Questions?

(02:28- 03:01) Essential Questions and PLCs

(03:02- 03:59) Recap

(04:00- 04:38) Reflection 

Additional Resources

West School District in Kentucky: Navigating Learning Targets

This presentation provides a how-to on connecting learning targets to the essential learning questions (in this instance, using Marzano's questions). The approach used by the district is a practical step by step approach.

Stevenson Elementary School: Professional Learning Communities

This website explains how to use the PLC essential questions to drive improvement. The school also draws connections to Response to Intervention (RTL) and Gifted and Talented in response to the PLC essential learning questions.