Essential Knowledge

Learners engage deeply with complex and challenging facts and concepts that build a meaningful foundation of knowledge.


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Expand on background knowledge and apply new concepts in various learning settings

Evidence of Learner Behaviors

  • Use background knowledge or prior learning to share and interact with a topic during self-directed, small group, or whole group learning experiences

Questions to Ask Learners

  • How do you use things you've learned before on the topic in your learning tasks or experiences?

  • How is it different when you are working individually or in other settings?

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Seek to understand the big picture or a deeper connection/purpose to the concept

Evidence of Learner Behaviors

  • Consider historical events and historical figures within the context a learning goal or topic

  • Exhibit how the learning task or topic is relevant to them in a meaningful way

Questions to Ask Learners

  • When learning about something, do you try to connect that to the bigger picture of what you’re learning? Why or why not?

  • Does your learning today have a specific meaning for you beyond the task?


Intentional and attentive use of essential knowledge ensures learners carry the cognitive lift. The application of well-organized, domain-specific knowledge is needed to prompt skill and knowledge transfer.


Ongoing learning and application of information requires a foundation of knowledge and skills. Learners are able to make connections and further develop proficiency when they have mastered prerequisite knowledge and skills.

Educator Actions

Learning facilitators ensure learners engage with content and concepts that are complex and challenging.

CSTPs: 1.5, 1.6, 2.4, 3.1, 3.5, 4.4, 5.5, 5.7

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Use blended learning to provide cyclical instruction, helping learners review content and skills and make connections to new lessons.

To foster deeper connections to content, have learners make text-to-self and text-to-world connections from shared and class readings.


  • Ensure that learning activities require learners to apply skills and habits to facts and concepts that are meaningful and important to learners (P)

  • Include a variety of spiraled opportunities for meaningful and important knowledge to be explained and discussed (P)

  • Anticipate and monitor learner thinking and ask questions that probe and guide learners to appropriate factual and conceptual understanding (P/F)

  • Incorporate formative and summative assessments, including checks for understanding, to assess depth of knowledge (P/F)

  • Correct misunderstandings* of facts and concepts accurately, completely, and as they arise (F)

  • Monitor the topics learners select to focus on when choice is provided to ensure appropriate rigor of facts and concepts, and redirecting as needed (F)

  • Include priming activities, such as warm ups, being inspired by models, or goal setting, to generate both excitement and clarity about the tasks ahead (P)

  • Conduct or present compelling demonstrations that transform abstractions into specific details (P)

  • Engage in whole group discussions or Socratic Seminars in which the entire class can talk about concepts, content, skills, or the learning process (P/F)

  • Reinforce the development of the self-directed learning cycle by establishing time to reflect on learning, data, or common misunderstandings (P)

*while being mindful of biases that can creep into anticipation; base anticipations on facts and data
P = planned F = facilitated spontaneously