Down with Topical Research Reports!
Jamie McKenzie puts nicely something I've been wanting to write about for some time. In the February issue of From Now On his topic is Putting an End to Topical Research. You know the kind of assignment: write a three-page report on Guatemala.
For two decades now schools have been seduced into buying lots of equipment so that students can become smarter. Sadly, we have no convincing evidence that the investments have paid off.And, unfortunately, they're carrying the tradition forward using the WebQuest format, too. As I look over the WebQuests being submitted to the SDSU database and even those being created in QuestGarden, I see far too many of these same, lame research reports.
Students become smarter when teachers show them how to use their minds to wrestle with challenging questions, but scooping and smushing does little to advance their skill.
We would have done better investing in professional development and program development - changing the types of assignments so that students would be required to make answers instead of finding answers.
Fewer computers. More effective teaching. That's what we need.
Most teachers learned about research by going through school and completing topical research assignments. They then become teachers and carry the tradition onward.
By definition, a WebQuest requires analysis, synthesis, judgment, creativity, or problem-solving, ideally in the form of a task that is authentic, a smaller version of something adults do. Topical research reports require no deeper thinking than reading and summarizing. Those are important skills, but they aren't the stuff of WebQuests.
The world doesn't need any more "WebQuests" that consist of kids looking up information about a planet or a state and then making a PowerPoint presentation about them. Teacher educators: let's move up Bloom's ladder a few rungs and put an end to this!