Tag Archives: WebQuests

What Makes for a Great Engaging Task?

Here’s another example of an Engaging Task:

You have been hired by Paramount’s King’s Island to research the roller coasters of Ohio, and then to come up with an idea for a new coaster. King’s Island wants to build a new roller coaster, but needs to know what its competition is. It also wants you to examine its existing coasters to see what types of coasters it does not have. After you examine the competition, you will come up with an idea for a new coaster. You will submit this idea in writing and also with a drawing.

Engaging Tasks are an easy-to-implement, real world learning strategy. Instead of simply assigning a task or assignment to the students, an Engaging Task tells a little story (only a paragraph or so!) that gives the students a reason for doing the work.

If this is a good one, what makes it good?

I think there are 6 criteria for a really good Engaging Task:

  1. Does it relate to your curriculum? Is it Standards-based?
  2. Do you have the 3 pieces? (Scenario, Role, & Task)
  3. Is it in the form of a “story”? (no procedural steps, or “teacher talk”)
  4. Does it focus on Higher Order Thinking? (Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create)
  5. Will students find it authentic or believable?
  6. Would students find it interesting or of significance?

Lets look at this example through the lense of these six criteria.

Standards-based: Like many Engaging Tasks, this one comes from a WebQuest (that is no longer published online). In the Teacher Section of this WebQuest, the teacher/author explained that it is an upper elementary assignment to apply learnings from physics. But looking at the (no longer published) Process Page and Resources Page showed that the content could also be data collection and data analysis. If you were teaching Complex Reasoning, it could also be an exercise for a student to demonstrate prowess in analysis or design.

All 3 pieces – Scenario, Role, & Task: An amusement park wants to build a new roll coaster. The students are roller coaster designers. They have to analyze the competition and design a new roller coaster. Yes, all three pieces.

In the form of a “story”- no “teacher talk”: Yes, this Task just tells the story. All the specifics, directions, and resources are saved for the Process Page and Resources Page in a WebQuest. In other kinds of engaging tasks, they can be separate parts of the handout.

HOTS – Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create: Yes, students have to analyze data that they collect, and create (design) a new roller coaster.

Students: authentic or believable: These students will be using real data from real amusement parks. If this was produced for students who live near these Ohio amusement parks, the Task is even more authentic!

Students: interesting or of significance: Students love roller coasters (or at least watching others on roller coasters)! It’s not unusual for a class to have a field trip to an amusement park as part of working on a project like this.

So it looks like this Engaging Task does a pretty good job of meeting the criteria!

What’s an Engaging Task

Are you looking for a teaching strategy that can hook and engage your students? One that can work with almost any content area? Then you’re looking to use an Engaging Task.

Engaging Tasks are an easy-to-implement real world learning strategy.

Engaging Tasks are the part of a WebQuest that make them so engaging to students. But they are such a strong pedagogical strategy that they can be applied to nearly any subject or topic, don’t need to be part of a WebQuest, and don’t even have to be used for an activity that requires technology (although technology can be it’s own motivator!)

WebQuest.org – THE place for everything about WebQuests – defines a WebQuest as an inquiry-oriented lesson format in wich most or all of the information that learners work with comes from the web. Some educators mis-identify a WebQuest as a series of low-level questions that students use the web to track down answers to, but this is far from a WebQuest. WebQuests require that students apply higher order thinking strategies.

The idea of WebQuests was developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March.

WebQuests follow a specific format and include these 6 components (although sometimes one or two of them might be combined):

  • Introduction
  • Task
  • Procedure
  • Resources
  • Evaluation
  • Conclusion

In my opinion, the part of a (good) WebQuest that makes it so engaging is the task. What makes a task so engaging?

Instead of simply charging students with an assignment, an Engaging Task tells a little story (only a paragraph or so!) that gives the students a reason for doing the work. The engaging task is made up of three parts:

  • The compelling scenario
  • A role for the student
  • The thing for the students to do

 

Engaging Task Resources: