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Evaluating Lesson Plans: Essential Learning Questions

Evaluating Lesson Plans: Essential Learning Questions

Author: Trisha Fyfe

This lesson will provide learners with ways to critically evaluate essential learning questions.

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Welcome to a tutorial on evaluating lesson plans using essential learning questions. Today in our tutorial, we will answer the following question. How do I evaluate my use of essential learning questions in my teaching? So what are those essential learning questions? Most likely, you use these already. Most of us teachers do, but let's take a look at the criteria for essential learning questions.

Essential learning questions must promote high level thought. They must promote lively discourse and new understandings. We want our students to walk away from our lessons with understandings and connections that are new to them, and interesting, and promoting that high level thought encourages connections to be made.

Essential learning questions are also asking our students to consider the big ideas, those main objectives of our lesson. Where do we want our students to end up? Essential learning questions promote meaningful connections within learning. They also create opportunities for transfer of learning. So not only do they create those new understandings, but students are able to transfer their learning with these essential learning questions.

Essential learning questions are questions that help students make sense of the core content or ideas. And again, going back to those big ideas of our lesson, where do we want students to end up. What would we like them to show us as far as their understandings?

When we evaluate our essential learning questions, it is really important to ask ourselves a few questions. So let's go through some sample essential learning questions with a few examples of guiding questions to help us evaluate the effectiveness of these essential learning questions.

We'll start off with, what are the benefits of having three branches of government. Let's try a few guided questions. Is this question focused on our standards, objectives, or the big ideas? And we don't have the lesson plan here, but we can assume that, yes, our lesson is geared towards the three branches of government and helping students to reach the understanding of each of those levels and what they are.

So the benefits of having three branches would be something that we would want our students to know. Is this question open ended and not centered on a right or wrong answer? Yes. There are many benefits of having three branches of government, and students answering this question will be able to give different and diverse answers according to what knowledge that they already have.

Is this question requiring your students to get to that high order thinking that's so important to us as teachers? Yes. Again, we're having students make those connections between something positive coming from a three branch government system, so they need to understand what each of those three branches of government are, and what the jobs of each branch is, and be able to decide are there benefits, are there good things that come of that system.

Lastly, let's ask ourselves this question. Is this question promoting self evaluation and discourse? And the students here will be able to self evaluate their understanding of the three branches of government, because they need to know what those branches are and what they do in order to understand truly what the benefits are.

Let's try this with another question. How does pollution affect our environment? Is this question focused on our standards or the big ideas? We can assume that our students are going to be learning about pollution in this lesson, and the effects of our environment because of pollution is something that fits into that objective.

Is this question open-ended? Yes, it is not centered on a right or wrong answer. We are not asking does pollution affect our environment, but asking our students to give us reasons why. Is this question requiring students to get that high order thinking? Yes it is. We're asking our students to, again, look into the idea of pollution and what kind of effects our environment has because of pollution.

Is the question promoting self-evaluation and discourse? Yes. The students need to understand what pollution is, as well as what our environment is, to understand how pollution truly affects the environment. So we've gone through just two of these four essential learning questions here on this slide, and next, I would like you to do some evaluating of the last two essential learning question samples.

So let's use these four guiding questions as criteria for assessing or evaluating these two essential learning questions. Is this question focused on our standards, objectives, and big ideas? Is this question open-ended? Is this question promoting self-evaluation and discourse? Is this question requiring our students to get to high order thinking skills?

So look at these two questions, how are reading and writing connected and when might you use multiplication in your life, and take a moment to assess one or both of these questions. Maybe write them down if you don't have time to do both of these at this time.

I can tell you that these two essential learning questions do, in fact, meet all four of these criteria, but it is truly important for you to have experience in assessing your own essential learning questions. Today we discussed only four essential learning questions, but when you think about the components of an essential learning question, really the opportunities to write these questions are endless.

Let's revisit what we learned today. Today we discussed the use of essential learning questions in your teaching, and how to evaluate that use of essential learning questions. We did this by talking about essential learning questions, and I reminded you of what exactly those were, what criteria must those meet.

We also explored some sample learning questions and used guiding questions like, is it focused on our standards, objectives, big ideas, or is this question promoting self-evaluation and discourse. Those are just two of the guiding questions we used. I've enjoyed guiding you through this beneficial tool today, and I know that you will really use these ideas often in your own classroom.

How can we apply these ideas? Who can you collaborate with to help you evaluate your use of essential learning questions? What might the challenges be in self-evaluation regarding essential learning questions? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video.

This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on Evaluating Lesson Plans: Essential Learning Questions"


(00:00- 00:15) Introduction/objectives

(00:16 - 01:31) Review Essential Learning Questions

(01:32- 04:16) Process for evaluation- guiding criteria

(04:17- 05:41) Process for evaluation- sample questions/practice

(05:42- 06:50) Review/Reflection

Additional Resources

North Middlesex School District: Assessment of Lesson Plans Using UbD and 21st Century Skills

This wiki includes many resources teachers can use, such as rubrics and checklists to evaluate their lesson plans.