Thursday, 27 April 2017

Complex Tasks Inquiry

Teacher Inquiry Question:  In what ways do complex tasks increase student engagement and confidence?

"When students are engaged in appropriately challenging tasks, they are more likely to repond to feedback because they need that information to continue growing and learning.  
We like to think of difficulty as the amount of effort or work a student is expected to put forth whereas complexity is the level of thinking, the number of steps, or the abstractness of the task.  
Students learn more when given complex tasks".  
Hattie, Fry and Fisher (2016), Visible Learning

In Through a Different Lens, teachers are encouraged to meet in collaborative inquiry groups to pursue questions they are interested in both teaching and learning.  This blog outlines a science project that one teacher pursued as she explored how her students respond to COMPLEX TASKS.

The teacher provided some introductory lessons on the human body to get the students excited about the unit of study.  She then let the students chose a human body system they were interested in learning more about.  There were four systems:  reproductive, excretory, hormonal, and nervous.  The students chose a system and worked in groups to do research on the system of their choice. 

Text sets were provided through collaboration with the teacher librarian so that each group had access to texts at a variety of reading levels.  Students were guided to collect important vocabulary and  images as they documented structures and functions, asked questions, and made connections to other body systems.  

After the research was complete, the students worked with the tech ed teacher to produce the body system out of a multiplicity of materials.  Students enjoyed creating the systems out of every day material.  

Each student created their own system,  labeled them and explained how each structure functioned and helps the human survive, reproduce and interact. 

Complex Task:
In many classrooms with ten and eleven year olds, this unit would have been considered a great success.  However, this classroom teacher was really looking at complex tasks and encouraging deeper and connected thinking.

She decided that the final assessment would encourage the students to think deeply and use the knowledge they had gained in a very practical but also complex way.  She invited the school health nurse, Karen Anne, to come in and talk with the class.  Karen Anne presented the students with a case study of a patient suffering from a medical condition.  She gave the students the patients symptoms.  The students worked in quads – one students from each system – to diagnose the patient and provide treatment options. They each were an expert in their body system.

After they had explored treatment options Karen Anne gave them the final diagnosis.  The groups continued to work on the treatment plans.  Each group had the opportunity to present their findings to a panel which included Karen Anne, the classroom teacher and the resource teacher.  They had to explain to the panel how each system was impacted by the medical condition and then suggest both short and long term treatments.

The public health nurse and the two teachers were amazed at the depth of understanding.

Submitted by Pam Rutten and Janice Moase 

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