You might want to read Tom Woodward’s Bionic Teaching and Michelle Bourgeois’ Milibo’s Musings response before reading my thoughts on both of those. Part of the background conversation also happened at Tom’s Bloom’s and Technology Pyramid, Mike Fisher’s Digigogy blog, and Visual Bloom’s and Bloom’s rubrics as well.
Tom and Michelle have been thinking about a teaching/learning challenge for a while. Initially Tom’s idea was “Pimp My Lesson Plan” and it turned into a challenge based on the “Iron Chef.” Having gotten a comment on the challenge on Tom’s blog, Michelle responded and tweaked the challenge potential a bit. Here’s my two cents to add to their challenge.
We all know it’s not necessarily JUST about the lesson plan, or the hook, or the activity, but about a combination of all of those things that will allow people to put good ideas out for others to use, and that will engage students in important work. When thinking about engaging students in activities that support “higher level thinking” I think about at least the following 3 facts:
- We can quantify rigor and relevance, but we experience issues when trying to quantify relationships. As we examine tasks and attempt to “judge” or “rate” them, we must keep in mind that relationships between student and teacher may make what might look like a less meaningful task important BECAUSE of the relationship.
- Being mindful of Phil Schlechty’s Working on The Work is crucial to the development of tasks that are likely to lead to student engagement.
- When an observer can see at least three of the 8 qualities of engaging work in a learning activity, then 80% of the time students self-report being engaged.
Thus, a learning activity not only has to be tied to good teaching, to the three R’s (rigor, relevance and relationships), and to worthwhile content, but also engage the students in quality ways.
Michelle described two scenarios where students were clearly engaged and the learning activities were built around the objectives for learning. Teachers were thoughtful about how to engage students so that interest was high, interactions between students were heightened and students received feedback throughout the activity. Teaching was centered around the task, which was clearly tied to the learning objectives. Teaching to the task is a GOOD thing!
Tying together the components of what John Antonetti calls “The Engagement Cube” is what I believe is critical to setting up learning opportunities that do what Tom and Michelle (and Mike Fisher and I and @beckyfisher73 and @mwacker and @barbaram and a bunch of other educators) are thinking about as we engage in these conversations around quality education.
Like the title of this blog, I say teachers must be MASTERS of task-making. I do not mean in the traditional sense of the word, as in making sure the work gets done, but as in MASTERFULLY crafting tasks. These tasks should be ones that engage, teach, allow for diversity of thought, stimulate creative juices flowing, and evoke a proud sense of accomplishment. They may even take on a life of their own, resulting in students taking the task to places the teacher may never have envisioned. Through rich tasks that demand rigor in thought and performance, that elicit cooperation and teamwork, students may also discover a passion for the subject or the discipline as well.
I hope my thoughts add TO the conversation and don’t detract from what Tom and Michelle are trying to encourage. These two educators have challenged other teachers to craft great lessons and share them. Let’s support that challenge and collaborate to create some incredible tasks!