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Peer Coaching

Coaching Skills (Self Study): Lesson Improvement Process


Developing a Task

What is an authentic, engaging problem that students might address in doing this lesson?

Part A: Authentic and Engaging Tasks

Authentic and engaging tasks typically specify a:

  • Setting (place and time); for example, "You are in a hurry to get to practice and decide to catch a bite to eat on your way."
  • Product; for example, "help…choose fast food that is tasty and healthy."
  • Would-be audience for their work; for example, "you and your teammates."

Part B: What Makes a Product Real and a Question Essential?

The Center for Problem-Based Learning believes authentic, engaging problems are:

  • Real-life, "messy," ill-structured situations.
  • Complex in nature, not solved easily.
  • Open-ended, not leading to one "right" answer.

Think for a moment about the What's for Lunch? example below. How does the revised task align with these characteristics?

Task Before Task After

Your teacher recently talked about being aware of the number of grams of fat, sodium, and calories in your diet and why it is important to know this information. You will calculate the nutritional value of what you eat at a fast food restaurant.

How healthy is your favourite fast food meal?
You are in a hurry to get to practice and decide to catch a bite to eat on your way. Your teacher recently talked about being aware of the number of grams of fat, sodium, and calories in your diet and why it is important to know this information. And your coach has been talking about how nutrition can make a difference in how well your team plays. What can you learn that could help you and your teammates choose fast food that is tasty and healthy? Design a brochure that gives guidelines to your team mates about which fast food is a heathy option.

The revised task has two elements found in many strong tasks:

  1. A scenario. Scenarios can stimulate students’ interest, and help students by placing what may be an abstract idea in a more understandable setting and defining an audience.
  2. Essential questions help define the product the students will create to demonstrate learning. That product, Grant Wiggins (2007) insists, helps students make sense of important, complicated ideas. The Coalition of Essential Schools believes essential questions help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Review the “before” and “after” tasks in the What’s for Lunch? example above and discuss how the scenario and essential questions make this task more engaging and authentic.

Part C: The Roles of Questions

Questions can help describe or clarify a task. These are sometimes called "essential,” “framing,” and/or “guiding” questions. Essential questions are a critical element of offering students active engaging learning opportunities. Grant Wiggins’ (Nov 15, 2007) article, What is an Essential Question? offers more insights into the purpose and value of essential questions. Read the article, and be prepared to discuss your conclusions about:

What's for Lunch? includes two such questions:

  • How healthy is your favorite fast food meal?
  • What can you learn that could help you and your teammates choose fast food that is tasty and healthy?

Here are more examples of questions taken from tasks:

  • What can we do to inform the town council about acid rain?
  • Which music festival will be best for our school's band to visit for their spring trip?
  • How will we maximize the seating capacity of our school's new circular theater?
  • How can the ticket lines at our local theatre be improved?

How do you decide if you need to include questions? Use your own judgement.

To help you decide, ask yourself: Will one or more question(s) help learners better understand:

  • The setting, product, or audience for the task?
  • How to use the new information, knowledge, and/or skill gained during the lesson?

Part D: Coaching Tools - Resources for Writing Tasks

Use these Resources for Writing Tasks to help shape your task.

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Related Scenarios

» Overview
» Baseline Competency Checklist
» Prepare for Lesson Improvement
» Lesson Improvement Process
» Implementation
» Closing