Essential Questions in Performance-Based Disciplines

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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performance-based disciplinesJust came from working with staff from Prosper ISD, Texas and was so proud of the thoughtful work to articulate the “big ideas” of their curriculum. Check out the Essential Questions that were developed by the K-12 Arts and Career Technical Education staff — all in a day’s work. These are the the conceptual through-lines and related essential questions within and across courses.


  • How do I express ideas, experiences, and emotions in my work?
  • What motivates me to keep creating? What do I do when I’m stuck?
  • What does this work make me see, hear, and/or think about?
  • How do I use other ideas to inspire my work?


  • If I know how to do it, why do I need to do it again?
  • When can I break the rules?
  • How do I get better at this technique?
  • How do I use technique to develop my idea?


  • How does this experience/task/assignment help me? (e.g., discover who I am, change the way I see and hear?)
  • How is my work tied to the world around me?


  • When is my work ready for the audience?
  • What is the message the audience is receiving? To what extent should the performer/artist/composer/playwright care?


  • What does quality work look and sound like?
  • What am I focusing on? How do I use that to improve to product/task/piece?
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