Give me an "A" for Authentic Tasks


How real, useful or beneficial is the task of the learner for others? What is the context for making meaning of the information? Who are they as learners (ROLE) that they would need to develop expertise in the content being targeted with the reasoning/thinking question? Who would find their expertise and knowledge useful and beneficial either simulated or real-world / community-based (AUDIENCE)? Cognitive Apprentices are complex tasks that could actually be found in real-world settings - real world tools and real world products. Consider the idea of citizen historians, scientists, journalists, politicians, marketing directosr or a business managers. Designing tasks that purposefully activate learners as "cognitive apprenticeships" organizes learning with context providing an answer to the infamous "SO WHAT?" question. And their final product or thinking work needs to be useful and beneficial beyond the teacher - either simulated or actually in service to their community.

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Students are challenged to use the acronym developed by Grant Wiggins' G.R.A.S.P.S. or G.R.A.P.E. as learning performance tasks are designed:

Goal (s)
Role and situation
Audience
Product and Presentation
Evidence of Learning


Sample Performance Tasks a la Wiggins

Develop a narrative performance task scenario that describes the APPLICATION and CONTEXT for the topic‘s content understanding to a real-world situation and what students will need to produce useful and beneficial for an audience.


  • Saving the Environment(Grade 3-4)
    • Your consulting team has been hired by the President of the US to recommend the fastest and most effective solution to address the many problems that endanger our climate, environment and welfare.


  • Chemical Equilibrium(Chemistry Grades 11-12)
    • You are a researcher hired by a group of expert mountain climbers to advise them on best precautions needed to avoid hypozia. Hyozia is the set of symptoms that comes from a lack of oxygen in the body tissues. It is often felt by climbers as they ascend altitude quickly. Sherpas, mountain guides, seem to avoid hypoxic discomfort. Why might that be? Design a series of investigations and experiments that would test the difference in hypoxic symptoms between mountain climbers and sherpas to yield information for your best health recommendations on their next climb.


  • Emergency Care(Language Arts Grades K-2)
    • You are an extinct animal who needs to get a special message of advice to human beings on how to save your life. Be ready to be interviewed on a special guests radio show exploring how you got on the “endangered” list and your best advice to human beings on what to do to save your life.


  • Mythical Job Search(Literature Grade 9-10)
    • Your task is to select an epic hero from the literature we have been reading and send a video resume to the author applying to be part of the adventure. Be sure to make the message persuasive – you are selling yourself and the value you would bring to them in handling the situations and difficulties.


  • Designing Containers(Mathematics Grades 6-8)
    • You are an engineer in the packaging department of the M&M’s candy company. You need to design a shipping container for safe and cost-effective shipping of M&M’s. You will need to develop a persuasive proposal with diagrams that convinces penny-pinching company officers that your container will provide maximum cost savings, safe shipping and maximize the shipping volume of bulk quantities of M&M’s.

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