WebQuest News

News and views about the WebQuest model, a constructivist lesson format used widely around the world.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

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.

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.

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.

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!


At 5:39 PM, Anonymous Jutti said...

Amen! Several years ago someone did a study (and I've lost the reference) that showed that drill type software didn't improve student achievement, it was using technology in activities such as WebQuests that require students to think critically that bring about improvement!

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Gail Desler said...

Bernie, if you haven't already seen it, I think the APA's revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy presents a strong argument for allowing students to use information to "create" - http://www.apa.org/ed/new_blooms.html

Thanks for the reminder.

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been teaching computer tech for a few years now, and use the Questgarden alot. Most of what I've seen is the kind of stuff this guy criticizes. Can you identify a webquest in the questgarden that might be an example of what you (and McKenzie) consider a "higher level thinking" webquest?

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Janna L. Walters said...

Thank-you so much for this statement. At the K20 Center for Education and Community Renewal at the University of Oklahoma our mission is to support school as they develope technology enriched learning communities to impact student achievement. The avenue to facilitate this is through authentic learning activities. I evaluate webquests using the components of authenticity and many fall short of their goal of higher level thinking skills. We don't need more technology, more software, or more webquests unless they support authentic student learning.

At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about hi-jacking the thread - you can always delete this comment - but would it be at all possible for you to post the time windows during which Questgarden will be accessible in the immediate future? I need to complete an assignment for a college course.

Anyway, thank you for a great resource. I am learning useful things in making my webquest.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ray said...

Fully agree .... I have been a fan of Jamie McKenzies's ideas for some years now.

Problem: I go to the Matrix of Science WebQuests and many of the recent ones are basically 'Find out about ...... ' which means I find it hard to recommend the matrix to other teachers. And the older 'genuine' Webquests often look dated with broken links.

I really need some sort of quality control or highlighting of the best webquests.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

I have not encountered many teachers that would give a research assignment that is as vague and thoughtless as "write a three-page report on Guatemala," and then send students to the internet for random and open research. Certainly that is terrible teaching.

But I disagree that asking students to research and learn about a topic and then produce an analytical expository or persuasive report is simply "scooping and smushing."

A good research paper will require many if not all of the qualities of "analysis, synthesis, judgment, creativity, or problem-solving." These are the tasks that any university student would have to do to learn almost any subject, and then demonstrate or act on the knowledge they have gained.

Indeed, it is important to help students ask relevant and thought-provoking questions that delve beneath the surface of the material they research. It is also useful to frame complex questions for students. However, before they should express their own creative and uniformed first impression on subjects, students should understand that there is a wealth of knowledge they should learn and consider first.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More Technology needed now!
More Bloom's Taxonomy needed now!
More Higher Level Thinking Needed Now! Real Research involves all of the higher steps of Bloom's Taxonomy.


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