Counter as of June 2008
A Taxonomy of Tasks
The task is the single most important part of a Web Quest. It provides a goal and focus for student energies and it makes concrete the curricular intentions of the designer. A well designed task is doable and engaging, and elicits thinking in learners that goes beyond rote comprehension.
There must be fifty ways to task your learner. Since 1995, teachers have been adapting the Web Quest model to their own needs and settings, and from their collective wisdom and experience some common task formats have emerged. This taxonomy describes those formats and suggests ways to optimize their use. It provides a language for discussing Web Quest tasks that should enhance our ability to design them well. It's likely that the task in a given Web Quest will combine elements of two or more of these task categories.
The categories below are in no particular order other than the placement of Retelling tasks first because of their simplicity and borderline status as the foundation of a good Web Quest. With eleven other task types to choose from, it's time to go beyond mere retelling!
Sometimes all you're asking of students is to absorb some information and then demonstrate that they've understood it. Research reports like these are bread-and-butter activities that don't break much new ground in educational practice, but they can provide an easy introduction to the use of the Web as an information source.
Students can report on what they've learned by way of PowerPoint or Smart Board presentations, posters, or short reports. These are the most commonly found Web Quests, and the least challenging (or interesting), but they can serve a purpose.
For example, see:
based on retelling really Web Quests? It's not a matter of black and white,
and it depends on the degree of transformation required of the learner. If
the task requires looking for simple, sure answers to pre-determined
questions, then the activity is clearly not a Web Quest even if the answers
are found on the Web. These are just worksheets with URLs.
A modest Web Quest could be based on retelling if:
More importantly, a retelling task could be used as an interim step to develop background understanding of a topic in combination with one of the other task types.
A simple task for students is to take information from a number of sources and put it into a common format. The resulting compilation might be published on the Web, or it might be some tangible non-digital product. Some example formats:
Ideally, a compilation task familiarizes students with a body of content and provides them with practice in making selection choices and explaining them, as well as organizing, chunking, and paraphrasing information drawn from a variety of sources in a variety of forms.
|To make a
compilation task qualify as a true Web Quest, there needs to be some
transformation of the information compiled. Simply putting a hotlist of
web sites or a collection of web images together arbitrarily isn't enough.
To ramp up the thinking skills required for a compilation task:
Everyone loves a mystery. Sometimes a good way to lure your students into a topic is to wrap it in a puzzle or detective story. This works well at the elementary school level, but can also be extended all the way up to adult learners.
The Aztec Adventure WebQuest, for example, begins with a mysterious package being delivered to your door. At the end of a sequence of information-seeking activities, your task is to explain the significance of the package and how it portrays the essence of Aztec civilization. Another example is King Tutankhamun: Was It Murder? in which learners examine the same evidence that scholars are debating about.
|A well designed
mystery task requires synthesis of information from a variety of sources.
Create a puzzle that cannot be solved simply by finding the answer on a
particular page. Instead, design a mystery that requires one to:
Mystery tasks can seem somewhat inauthentic because of the fictionalizing they require, though the tradeoff in increased learner interest can make it worthwhile.
If there are careers related to your topic which involve genuine puzzle-solving (as in what historians, scholars, archaeologists and other scientists do) then wrap the mystery around such people and the bogosity will be minimized.
Is there is a specific event at the core of what you want your students to learn? One way to craft a Web Quest is to ask your learners to act like reporters covering the event. The task involves gathering facts and organizing them into an account within the usual genres of news and feature writing. In evaluating how they do, accuracy is important and creativity is not.
The Vietnam Memorial WebQuest, for example, puts students at the heart of the controversy around the design of the monument and the War itself. Vietnam: A Soldier's PerspectiveThe Mexico City EarthQuake WebQuest has students reading first hand accounts of the quake and creating a simulated news program recounting it. The Gilded Age WebQuest guides students towards the creation of a documentary.
Some people are well into adulthood before they realize that there is the potential for bias in all reporting, that all of us have filters that affect how we see things and what we choose to look at.
A well designed journalistic task will require your students to:
To design such a lesson, you'll need to provide the right resources and establish the importance of fairness and accuracy in reporting.
According to Webster, design is "a plan or protocol for carrying out or accomplishing something." A WebQuest design task requires learners to create a product or plan of action that accomplishes a pre-determined goal and works within specified constraints.
In the Design a Canadian Vacation lesson, students create an itinerary that meets the interests of a given family. In Future Quest, students research career possibilities and make recommendations for four simulated high school students. The Designing a Home WebQuest pulls students into choosing the best floor plan for a given site and guides them through the selection of materials to complete the home. In Adventure Trip Quest, students design a field trip to a natural disaster site.
|The key element
in a design task is to build in authentic constraints. Asking students to
design an ideal X without also requiring them to work within a budget and
within a body of legal and other restrictions doesn't really teach much. In
fact, an uncontrained design task teaches an illusory "anything goes"
attitude that doesn't map well onto the real world.
A well crafted design task:
Creative Product Tasks
Might students learn about your topic by recasting it in the form of a story or poem or painting? Like engineers and designers, creative artists work within the constraints of their particular genre. Creative Web Quest tasks lead to the production of something within a given format (e.g. painting, play, skit, poster, game, simulated diary or song) but they are much more open-ended and unpredictable than design tasks. The evaluation criteria for these tasks would emphasize creativity and self-expression, as well as criteria specific to the chosen genre.
Radio Days, for example, requires the scripting and performance of a radio play, complete with sound effects and ads. Sworn to Serve requires the creation of a historically plausible portfolio for a fictional feudal family.
|As with design
tasks, the constraints are the key, and they will differ depending on the
creative product and topic being worked on. Such constraints might include
such things as requiring:
Balanced against the constraints, a task of this type should invite creativity by being somewhat open-ended. There should be enough wiggle room in the assignment that a student or group of students will be able to leave a unique stamp on what you're asking them to do.
Consensus Building Tasks
Some topics go hand in hand with controversy. People disagree because of differences in their value systems, in what they accept as factually correct, in what they've been exposed to, or in what their ultimate goals are. In this imperfect world, it's useful to expose future adults to such differences and to give them practice as resolving them. Consensus building tasks attempt to do that. The essence of a consensus building task is the requirement that differing viewpoints be articulated, considered, and accommodated where possible. For better or worse, current events and recent history provide many opportunities for practice.
The Vietnam Mural Web Quest elicits differences of opinion about the war as the question of whether to paint a mural is debated. Contrast this with the Vietnam Memorial lesson described earlier, which is treated as more of a journalistic task. In Tom March's Searching for China, six different perspectives must be debated and synthesized into a common policy recommendation.
|A well designed
consensus-building task will:
There are people in the world who disagree with you. They're wrong, of course, so it's useful to develop skills in persuasion. A persuasion task goes beyond a simple retelling by requiring students to develop a convincing case that is based on what they've learned. Persuasion tasks might include presenting at a mock city council hearing or a trial, writing a letter, editorial or press release, or producing a poster or videotaped ad designed to sway opinions.
Example persuasion tasks include a recreation of The Amistad Case. In the Rock the Vote WebQuest, students design an ad campaign to encourage voting by young adults. In Conflict Yellowstone Wolves, the task is to influence government policy.
are often combined with consensus building tasks, although not always. The
key difference is that with persuasion tasks, students work on convincing an
external audience of a particular point of view, as opposed to the
persuasion and accomodation that occurs internally in a consensus building
The key to a well done persuasion task is that:
Sometimes the goal of a Web Quest is a greater understanding of oneself, an understanding that can be developed through guided exploration of on- and off-line resources. There are few examples of this type, perhaps because self-knowledge is not heavily represented in today's curricula.
One excellent example is provided by What Will I Be When I Get Big? which walks students through a progression of web-based resources as they analyze their goals and strengths and develop a career plan.
|A well crafted
self-knowledge task will compel the learner to answer questions about
themselves that have no short answers. Such tasks could be developed around:
One aspect of understanding is the knowledge of how things hang together, and how things within a topic relate to each other. An analytical task provides a venue for developing such knowledge. In analytical tasks, learners are asked to look closely at one or more things and to find similarities and differences, to figure out the implications for those similarities and differences. They might look for relationships of cause and effect among variables and be asked to discuss their meaning.
|A well designed
analytical task goes beyond simple analysis to the implications of what is
found. For example, while creating a Venn diagram comparing Italy with
England is a fine task, a better task would include some requirement to
speculate or infer what the differences and similarities between the two
3rd Grade Social Studies
4th Grade Social Studies
5th Grade Social studies
To evaluate something requires a degree of understanding of that something as well as an understanding of some system of judging worth. Judgment tasks present a number of items to the learner and ask them to rank or rate them, or to make an informed decision among a limited number of choices.
One example familiar to any student of Web Quests is the The WebQuest about Web Quests exercise. The criteria for evaluation given are short and sketchy, as the lesson is intended to provide an introduction to the concept and the issues involved.
A more elaborate example is Evaluating Math Games in which learners play one of several roles to come up with their recommendations.
though not required, that learners play a role while accomplishing a
judgment task. Excellent Web Quests of this type have been developed within a
mock trial format. See the
Amistad Web Quest
Rain Forest Project
A well designed assignment of this type will either:
In the second case, it is important to get learners to explain and defend their system of evaluation.
The scientific method lead to the technology that lead to your reading of these words. Science permeates our society and it's critical that today's children understand how science works, even if they never don a white smock and carry a clipboard around.
The Web brings both historical and up-to-the-minute data to our doors, and some of it can provide practice at doing real science.
The KanCRN Collaborative Research Network, and the Journey North projects are examples of this kind of activity, though they are not strictly in the form of Web Quests. Even with small children, a creative teacher could build a lesson around the use of Web Cams by having children observe and count specific events.
Lighthouse Diamond Thief WebQuest
is an example of a scientific task combined with a mystery.
What does a scientific task look like? It would include:
The key to making a successful Web Quest of this type is to find questions that can be addressed by the kinds of data available online, that are not so arcane that they cannot be related to the standard science curriculum, and are not so well known that crunching the numbers becomes an exercise in going through the motions.