On Task Design--A Post in Response to My Conversation With John Antonetti

As a follow-up from my conversation with John Antonetti, I wanted to consider how a task is different from a lesson.  I came into the conversation aware that John and his collaborators James Garver and Terri Stice had done a lot of work with the concept of task design.  In fact, John and Terri’s recent book #Powerful Task Design, is predicated upon tasks.  At one point during our talk, I asked John how long a typical task would last.  Would it take a full lesson?  Or could it be multiple days?  The answer I got was that it was a planned moment of learning.  Think of the A-ha! moment, only instead of it occurring by guess and by gosh, it is something designed and planned for.  So, in essence, the goal is not to design one, long task that drags out.  Rather, the idea is to create tasks as flashpoints for kids to have breakthroughs. 

I also went in that afternoon to John’s workshop on student engagement.  That’s the other part of the task.  A worksheet is not a task—at least not unless it’s the most brilliant and exciting worksheet to have ever been.  A worksheet should be used for practice.

John gave examples of varying levels of tasks from basic to rigorous.  For example, drawing your favorite right from the first Amendment is not rigorous, but it can help to reinforce the specific rights.  Having students remove one of the rights, then determine from a list of things Americans have the freedom to do if those freedoms remain, is a much more rigorous task.  Both have their place, and it’s up to the teacher to determine when they are appropriate to the learning.  John would say, come up with the moments of thought, the tasks, and then plan around that.

Here are some links to John’s work.

The Rigor Divide

Student Engagement Cube