What makes a question worthy?

As we look to the implementation of the BC EdPlan  it is exciting to see the focus on inquiry in the classroom,  and how we deliver content based on our students strengths and passions, and worldview.  We want our students to ask this kind of question?


In the past the teacher has been responsible for delivering the perfect question which drives learning.  But flash forward to September 2016 we hope to inspire a new type of learning which encourages more critical thinking on the part of our students.  In an article written by Jay Tighe and Grant Wiggins based on their book Essential Questions they encourage students to think more deeply.

According to their definition an essential question should be “broad in scope” and “universal in nature”.  They often elicit no right answer but provide debatable issues which don’t really lead to one right answer.  They might reflect the key words in an inquiry which in the new BCEDplan are called the Big Ideas.  Or they might reflect part of the core content you are wanting to cover in your research.

Here are some examples of over arching essential questions in different subjects:

Social Studies:

  1.  Whose story is this?  Is God in this story?
  2. How can we know what really happened in the story?
  3. What is worth fighting for in this historic period?
  4. Why do people move?
  5. Imagine yourself in the role of the explorer during this time period.  How would you feel?  What issues would you face?


  1.  When and why should we estimate?
  2. Is there a pattern?
  3. What do good problem solvers do when they get stuck?
  4. How does God design numbers to reflect beauty in His creation?

Language Arts

  1.  Why am I writing?  For whom?
  2. What is the relationship between fact and fiction?
  3. How do writers hook their readers?
  4. How do other stories from other places reflect my story or God’s story?


  1.  Is ageing a disease?
  2. Why do scientific theories change?
  3. How has God designed animals to live in His world?
  4. Who invented this theory?  How do I find out more about this inventor?

Second Language:

  1.  How can I sound like a native speaker?
  2. How much of the culture do I need to understand before sounding like a native speaker?
  3. How can I explore cultures without stereotyping them?

Topical essential questions under these broader categories might include:

  1.  How did the Metis view the settlement of their land?
  2. How does diet effect the human body?
  3. How does Sigmund Brouwer get students to understand feelings in writing “Devils Pass”?

As you start the process with your child have them understand the difference between an open ended question and a closed question.  

Here are some practical ideas:

  1.  Brainstorm to make up questions about a potential project idea.
  2. Define an open ended question and closed question .
  3. Have your child go through the list of questions they have made and decide which ones have a yes/no answer, and which ones elicit further discussion and thinking, and more interesting answers.
  4. Vote on the top questions which they think will elicit the best research.
  5. Hopefully you will have a perfect research topic!

If your student is doing a project based on interests or passions you might want to give them a strengths based assessment.  Thrively is a great free resource for this type of assessment.  Once your student has completed the assessment they will be provided resources that will help them discover their passions.


Recent purchase of materials in our learning commons on Overdrive will help you prepare for Inquiry.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

The Art of Inquiry by Nancy Lee Cecil.

Guided Inquiry by Carol Kuhlthau

Project Based Inquiry for Young Children by Colleen Macdonell.

Science as Inquiry by Jack Hassard

Using Primary Sources by Jeannette Ritch

Article on essential questions with ideas for Primary.

Inquiry based picture books on Overdrive.

You can also watch some inquiry based learning in these videos.


Pippa and the learning commons team!

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