What Makes for a Great Engaging Task?

Here’s another example of an Engaging Task:

You have been hired by Paramount’s King’s Island to research the roller coasters of Ohio, and then to come up with an idea for a new coaster. King’s Island wants to build a new roller coaster, but needs to know what its competition is. It also wants you to examine its existing coasters to see what types of coasters it does not have. After you examine the competition, you will come up with an idea for a new coaster. You will submit this idea in writing and also with a drawing.

Engaging Tasks are an easy-to-implement, real world learning strategy. Instead of simply assigning a task or assignment to the students, an Engaging Task tells a little story (only a paragraph or so!) that gives the students a reason for doing the work.

If this is a good one, what makes it good?

I think there are 6 criteria for a really good Engaging Task:

  1. Does it relate to your curriculum? Is it Standards-based?
  2. Do you have the 3 pieces? (Scenario, Role, & Task)
  3. Is it in the form of a “story”? (no procedural steps, or “teacher talk”)
  4. Does it focus on Higher Order Thinking? (Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create)
  5. Will students find it authentic or believable?
  6. Would students find it interesting or of significance?

Lets look at this example through the lense of these six criteria.

Standards-based: Like many Engaging Tasks, this one comes from a WebQuest. In the Teacher Section of this WebQuest, the teacher/author explains that it is an upper elementary assignment to apply learnings from physics. But looking at the Process Page and Resources Page will show you that the content could also be data collection and data analysis. If you were teaching Complex Reasoning, it could also be an exercise for a student to demonstrate prowess in analysis or design.

All 3 pieces – Scenario, Role, & Task: An amusement park wants to build a new roll coaster. The students are roller coaster designers. They have to analyze the competition and design a new roller coaster. Yes, all three pieces.

In the form of a “story”- no “teacher talk”: Yes, this Task just tells the story. All the specifics, directions, and resources are saved for the Process Page and Resources Page.

HOTS – Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create: Yes, students have to analyze data that they collect, and create (design) a new roller coaster.

Students: authentic or believable: These students will be using real data from real amusement parks. If this was produced for students who live near these Ohio amusement parks, the Task is even more authentic!

Students: interesting or of significance: Students love roller coasters (or at least watching others on roller coasters)! It’s not unusual for a class to have a field trip to an amusement park as part of working on a project like this.

So it looks like this Engaging Task does a pretty good job of meeting the criteria!

About Mike Muir

I'm an educator interested in collaborating with other educators on engaging all learners, proficiency-based learning, technology's role in learning, and leadership for school change.
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2 Responses to What Makes for a Great Engaging Task?

  1. Pingback: Getting Better at Engaging Tasks Through Revision. | Multiple Pathways

  2. Pingback: Finding Common Ground » Blog Archive » Engaging Classroom

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