Learning Task Design – Part II

In Part II of Learning Task Design you will find me “eating my words” about my Survivor Task Design.  And you never know, as I continue to learn about task design, I may be adding to this internal struggle of mine.

Task Design is a part science and part art form.  My bible of Maker learning, Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager suggests that the best tasks are those prompted by students’ questions.  Allowing students to direct their learning by posing the initial question provides intrinsic motivation and results in engaged learning.

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Martinez and Stager have specific advice when it comes to a great prompt: brevity, ambiguity and immunity to assessment.  This advice goes contrary to what I tried, recently,  in a “Survivor Challenge.” Trying to set out a scenario where students were led to a very narrow silo of solutions, in hindsight, seems controlling and unnatural.  Ambiguity is the most difficult of these hints to concede.  In lessening the task designer’s control on the prompt, the outcomes becomes less predictable but students are also given free rein to explore various outcomes.

As I am working through these various tasks, designs and outcomes, I am forming my “personal design philosophy.”  Each concrete practice paired with design literature help to move our Maker tasks closer to a pure design experience. While The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World by Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman does not cater to the field of education but to all types of design, it does give a solid foundation for design learning. “Design is about evoking, or creating, the ideal in the real.” (p.39) These are powerful words to emulate in a maker environment.

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It is a steep learning curve from my conventional learning habits but it is exciting to explore the implementation of this student-centred learning that encourages creative thinking for teachers and students.

Both books are currently available at the Doucette Library.

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