From Rich Task Projects to Rich Task Teaching

Today I was invited to work with a group of teachers who are trying to implement rich tasks into their practice.

They have spent some time defining a rich task by carefully considering the categories of characteristics, including global competencies.

Some of these characteristics include:

  1. Multiple entry points
  2. Opportunities for enrichment and remediation (such as direct instruction where needed)
  3. Student voice and choice
  4. The task does not limit what students can do
  5. The task provides real-world connections (a meaningful context for students)
  6. Deep thinking and problem solving
  7. Captures big ideas
  8. Is knowledge-building
  9. Allows for differentiated products and processes
  10. Includes global competencies, etc.

The team has created a beautiful graphic that really helps portray their understanding of rich tasks.

But now, how do we implement this?

When we are struggling with our learning, when it gets really messy, when your head even hurts when you think about it – this is when we are on the edge of important learning.  But it helps to have a framework to put the mess into, something to help move us in the direction of achieving what we want to see in our classrooms.

Here are some of the things we learned today.

  1. We explored the idea that maybe we don’t need a big rich task in every subject area, or with every group of kids.  As educators, we make the best decisions for student learning, and a really significant rich task might not be the best plan in every case.  However, we still value the characteristics of the rich tasks, and using them to guide our teaching – “rich task teaching” might be a small but very possible step to start with.
  2. The inquiry model – Plan, Act, Assess, Reflect can be a great framework for messy learning.  As we plan, we create a Theory of Action.  screen-shot-2017-05-01-at-11-50-47-pmIf we use good questions and monitor the impact of our moves, we can then assess and reflect the impact of our work, and consider carefully what next steps will be.  Assess and Reflect are critical but often neglected facets of the Inquiry process.
  3. Rich tasks need to be scaffolded.  It isn’t just about the skills, but about scaffolding the ability to use the tools, creativity, community (risk-free), research, thinking, freedom to follow interests and curiosity (we’ve trained this out of our kids). (See the work of Kathy Pick scaffolding creativity in ENG4U)
  4. Networking can help us learn what other teachers are doing and save us lots of time!  Connecting with other teachers is important for our own professional learning.  For example, we have learned that the following people are doing similar work with 3D printers and sharing openly: @rchids, @missjessweber, @lboerkamp, @DL_Buts, @DaveDelGobbo, @MrBrandPDSB, @peachyteachy, @art_CHHS.screen-shot-2017-05-01-at-10-31-19-pm
  5. Learning to document our learning and share our learning back is an important way to learn and model this kind of workflow for our students. (This is beautifully outlined here.) Thanks to Leslie Boerkamp who shared (networking!) her TLLP learning documentation with us HERE
  6. The OSAPAC website has great information on tools that are licensed for teacher and student use in Ontario.

As I continue to think about the supports this group of educators might be able to use, I will add them below.

Street Fighting Mathematics (free ebook here)

Bored Out Of Their Minds – Harvard Graduate School



Featured image by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.

One thought on “From Rich Task Projects to Rich Task Teaching

  1. Thank you, Donna, for spending the day with our team yesterday, and helping guide us through this muddy learning! Each member of the team came away with new ideas, and more importantly, more focus. We are developing a strong framework for rich task teaching, and are grateful for your perspective and guidance – be on the lookout for great things coming out of our school in the near future!

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