How do educators define and design rich tasks for students?

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Great question.

Rich tasks tweet

The first thought that came to mind when I read the phrase ‘rich task’ was the Nrich team from Cambridge University. They offer some interesting points in describing characteristics and components of a rich task and the types of student behaviour associated with rich tasks.

Rich tasks encourage children to think creatively, work logically, communicate ideas, synthesise their results, analyse different viewpoints, look for commonalities and evaluate findings. However, what we really need are rich classrooms: communities of enquiry and collaboration, promoting communication and imagination.

–¬†Jennifer Piggott

I like that definition and suggestion.

Geoff Krall has compiled an amazing array of ‘problem based tasks’ which I believe are synonymous with rich tasks. Whenever students have used these tasks in my classroom I have been encouraged by the level of critical thinking and engagement. I don’t believe that rich tasks require a specified time frame. I’ve found that in some situations students can experience elements of rich tasks. For example, with the 101 questions, ‘What’s the first question that comes to your mind?

High Tech High in San Diego talks about their teachers as ‘designers’ of projects/learning that will engage students. They have a strong culture of mentoring in building rich tasks (projects) that require Significant Content and 21st Century Learning Skills.

Because there is so much great content out there to access there hasn’t been much pressure for me to design rich tasks on a regular basis. I have begun work on designing a PBL unit for Year 7 and I believe the first step for a great project (rich task) is passion. If you’re not passionate about seeing students of all ability levels being engaged in learning then things become difficult. Mark Burgess suggests that, where possible, working in teams will help the process of design because you can be constantly providing review and feedback. This guide has been an amazing resource for guiding our project design.

How do you design rich tasks? What do you describe as the key elements?


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