Advice from Mike Muir on Engaging Tasks–Part 2

MAMLE is reposting Dr. Mike Muir’s series on engaged learning originally published on his blog Multiple Pathways. Part 1, defining an engaged task, can be found earlier on this site.  Here is Part 2 of the series.

Mike Muir

The 3 parts of an Engaging Task

Here is an example of an Engaging Task.

It is modern day, and you are on the jury for the trial of Macbeth. Macbeth is being tried for the murder of the King. You will be deciding whether or not Lord Macbeth is guilty or innocent, and how he should be held responsible for his actions. Be prepared to defend your decision to the other jury members.

Engaging Tasks are a really versatile and powerful instructional strategy with their roots in WebQuests. An Engaging Task is essentially a brief story that provides context and a reason for the students to learn what they are about to learn and do what they are about to do. (Don’t you think this is way more interesting to a student than just asking her to write an essay about if they think Macbeth should be found guilty or not?)

There are three key pieces to an Engaging Task:

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

Take a second and look at the example above.

What’s the compelling scenario? What’s the context for the student’s work?

What’s the role of the student? Who is the student in the story?

What is the thing that the student has to do? What is the student expected to produce?

 

Go ahead. Take a little time and decide on your answers to these three questions. I’ll wait for you…

 

So what did you decide? What did you say the scenario was? The trial of Macbeth? Who is the student? Did you say juror? And what does the student have to do? Did you say decide on guilt or innocence?

Notice a couple other things, too. Our little story is just a story and the student is just a character in that story (there is no reference to the class, or to the student being a student – they are just other jury members). And there are no directions in our little story (put step by step directions in a separate document). Part of what makes Engaging Tasks engaging is the fact that the student’s imagination is turned loose in the task. Just like you don’t want to go to a Civil War reenactment where the soldiers are wearing sneakers, you don’t want your class or assignment sneaking back into your Task.

You can explore tasks by browsing through Webquests. See if you can identify the scenario, student role, and thing to do in each.

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About Jill Spencer

I taught middle school for many years, and now I consult with schools across the country and internationally in the areas of curriculum and instruction, including technology integration. Please also check out my blog about middle school teaming at http://teamingrocks.wordpress.com/. Other publications include: Teaming Rocks! Collaborate in Powerful Ways to Ensure Student Success Everyone’s Invited! Interactive Strategies That Engage Young Adolescents 10 Differentiation Strategies for Building Prior Knowledge
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