It’s hard to explain the magnitude of loss to our profession when it’s Grant Wiggins. I mean, I never actually met the man, and yet he was like my educational rock. The best units, the best lessons, the biggest “aha!” moments in my classes have been fueled by his work. In a very real and tangible way, I am the educator I am today because of Grant Wiggins - because of my well worn copy of Understanding by Design, and my conversations with colleagues around essential questions, big ideas, and authentic assessments. I attribute much of the success and satisfaction at what I do in the classroom to what I learned from his books, blog posts, and articles shared. His passing marks a huge loss to the education community.
In her tweet this morning announcing Grant’s passing, Grant’s wife Denise urged us all to “carry on the work.” I am by no means an expert on all things Wiggins, but I know that carrying on his work means carrying on in a direction of authentic, engaging learning; carrying on a dedication to learning experiences guided by meaningful inquiry; carrying on a determination to start with the end in mind and build classroom experiences around clear and purposeful objectives and assessments; carrying on a willingness to work in close collaboration with colleagues to create curriculum and reflect on teaching.
Well, what if we started by sharing some of our best work, contributing to that collaborative community of educators he inspired? Here’s the Essential Question Tribute challenge:
- Share your best essential question. Pick one that inspired the deepest thinking or deepest discussion in your class, or offered students opportunities to think, rethink, and perhaps even shift their perspective, or pushed them to empathize and relate in a way they hadn’t before. True to what we learn in Understanding by Design, this looks pretty simple (it’s only one question, after all!), but my guess is that you invested hours in crafting and refining that one question. If you’re up for blogging about what made that EQ so great, so effective, so transformative, go for it. If not, just tweet out your EQ.
- In your tweet, please include Grant Wiggins’ twitter handle (@grantwiggins), and the hashtag #EQTribute.
- Then, to help spread the word and build the collection of awesome essential questions, TAG FIVE educators who you think have been inspired by Wiggins’ work, and would have some work of their own to share.
I’ll get the ball rolling…
My favorite Essential Question to date is:
What forces drive individuals to the fringe of society, and how might a person benefit from that position, despite the discomfort of being cast aside?
I am certain I did not create this question on my own, and am equally certain that it started in curriculum at a friend’s school, was shared with me, tweaked, shared with another colleague, refined… and now shared with you. What I also know is that this question has sparked amazing discussion around literature, looking at a character’s motivation and growth, and also discussion around students’ own lives, thinking about what they have learned from being an outcast of types (whether from a friend group, as a teenager, a minority voice, a dissenter…). I love that this question gives students permission to find power in the midst of potential discomfort, and seek wisdom from their differences.
I would like to challenge the following five teachers to join me in the #EQTribute: Lisa Da Lepo @lisateachestech, Lisa Highfill @lhighfill, David Theriault @davidtedu, Michelle Balmeo @michellebalmeo, and Megan Rose Ellis @meganroseellis
I would also like to invite five education authors whose books reflect a deep understanding of Wiggins’ work to chime in on the conversation: Jim Burke @englishcomp, Carol Jago @caroljago, Kelly Gallagher @KellyGtoGo, Meenoo Rami @meenoorami, and Jen Roberts @jenroberts1
Now, let’s carry on the work. Rest in peace, Grant.