Advising Assessment High Impact Practices Purpose of Teaching

Essential Questions

The start of the semester is about setting a tone of excitement that drives engagement. We need to remind our students–and ourselves!–that what we do together in the classroom matters. One way to do this is to center our instruction and learning goals on essential questions.

What are essential questions? An essential question is a question that drives curiosity. It is the type of question that a student can find new ways of responding to as they develop as a thinker and a person. It may be the question you heard your first week of college and that still consumes you to this day!

Thinking about essential questions, I encourage you to think about your individual courses and your departmental learning goals. How might we frame a St. Lawrence education around big questions that keep students excited and motivated? How can you pepper some of these questions into each course meeting, and how can you help students begin posing these types of questions for themselves?

Each discipline and each class is different, so I encourage you to take some time before preparing a syllabus or preparing for a course meeting, asking yourself: Is there a question here that I can ask that my students will find engaging? Instead of telling a student that something is interesting, how can I show them something is interesting by leading them there through a well-posed question?

Finally, when you think about mentoring and advising, the role of good questions is central. We show a student we care about them–and their future–when we take the time to ask the types of questions that help them make progress. Any helpful advice we give is truly secondary to the types of questions that empower a student to realize that they have agency and options.

Please reach out if you’d like to talk through adding essential questions to a syllabus, to departmental learning goals, or to individual class meetings. I am always happy to help in any way I can!