Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thoughts while reading Understanding by Design, Chapter 5

Essential Questions, as used here, are open-ended, transferable, interesting, and appropriate to the audience.

I don't think I need to come up with different questions for classes at different levels. If I'm doing it right, the questions I use should be questions that could be used productively at many levels, including actual research. If I phrase the question well, it should be accessible to all of my students.

On pg 110, "No question is inherently essential." The same question can be rhetorical or essential, depending on context and intent. I've noticed this in classes. Sometimes when I ask a questions that I hope will be thought-provoking, my students look as if they're trying to recall a pat answer from the textbook or waiting for me to answer my own question. I think they're used to being asked rhetorical questions. I need to set up my questions better, so students realize that they're being asked to think!

"Skills are means, not ends; the aim is fluid, flexible performance." (pg 113) I think this goal has been lost in the testing craze. We test skills and implicitly tell kids that the skills are the goal, or that performance on the test is the goal, when the real goal is performing outside of school.

I think the current sophomore physics curriculum needs two overarching questions, one having to do with motion/force and the other having to do with energy. But maybe one about energy would be enough, if I can figure out how to weave mechanical energy into the first half of the course. That might also ease the second semester time crunch.

Possible Essential Questions for Kinematics:
  • How can we describe motion? How accurately?
  • What are forces?
  • Can we predict motion and change of motion? How? How accurately?
  • What causes motion/change in motion?
  • What causes change?
  • What assumptions do we make to make sense of the world?
I'm sure these aren't perfect, but they're a start.

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