Writing Tasks

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I am student teaching in a department that uses complex instruction as it’s content-delivery model.  I know very little about the actual system, aside from what I have learned “on the job.”  What I understand is that the majority of learning takes place via group work, and that group work should be directed toward “tasks.”  Tasks are basically sets of problems that the students should be able to solve given their current understanding, and relying on their group members and the instructor as resources.

I think I have a kind of talent for writing tasks.  I have always thought of myself as a very practical mathematical person.  The math I know best is that which I use in daily life.  And if there’s anything in my daily life that can be enhanced with a little mathematics, chances are I’ve tried it.  It turns out that this is a pretty good background to have for writing tasks, because it makes it easy to write problems that are set in an authentic context.

One of the difficulties I see with the situation I am teaching in is that while this department uses complex instruction, the other secondary schools do not.  In addition, the district recently adopted a very traditional textbook, and expects all schools to use it (including ours).  Trying to develop tasks that don’t diverse too much from the textbook (so that we can assign homework problems from it) is an interesting challenge.  What I also find interesting is how poor the word problems are, in general.  They are written in such a way that only a minimum of mental effort is really required.  This assessment seems to be shared by the district, who, although they purchased the textbook, made it clear in their document aligning it with the state standards that it dos nothing to meet any of the critical thinking and problem solving state requirements.

That makes me wonder why they chose it.  Were the other options so much worse?  I can think of at least one curriculum that would have met all of the standards… why were these not options?  What factors really are involved in choosing textbooks, anyway?  Although it’s too late here now, I think that as a new teacher I might have to get involved in whatever committee makes these sorts of decisions.  I have the sense that politics and economics, rather than the interests of student learning, rule decision-making in many cases.

But I could be wrong.

And I’m off topic.  That happens with me, sometimes.

On the subject of tasks, I would just like to add that this process, while sometimes time consuming, is incredibly rewarding and, I’m finding, a very creative process.  I am keeping everything, too.  I may not find a way to use all the material next year (or any of it), but I will try.  Or maybe I’ll rewrite everything again.  That sounds like more fun, anyway.


1 Comment

  1. Robin said,

    December 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I gave you the How to Create Groupworthy Tasks article to read didn’t I?

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