My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Planning a lesson - notes on the process part 2- task design

To begin the detail planning I have started with the first student activity considering it as almost an “end point”, from which I can then work backwards to my input and the starter activity. I think about the exam question (formative assessment in action)  that foxed my students and wonder if this exam question will provide a useful start point guiding how complex to make this task.

I start Googling some information using searches such as " Vitamin A nutrient data" and stumble upon a useful website, although the website as  a whole is  too complex for students to access,  the tabulated data looks just about what I need for my students to be able to access. I decide to edit the tables only, so that students are not overwhelmed by the webpages.

At this point here I begin to consider group size and the number of tasks they will need for the whole class? What does the content knowledge suggest? The  information the students are going to be looking at is beyond the national curriculum but is important in the context of the project. I decide as a class we need to look at a minimum for class Vitamin A B C D and K Minerals Calcium, Iron, and macronutrients fibre and  protein. I will review this later. Should I include carbohydrates and magnesium?

I copy and paste the data from the website and edit it to remove some information and change the titles so that it is familiar to the students. Eg %DV is changed to %RDA or recommended daily amounts. I want this large quantity of data to look kind of familiar.


I start writing some questions and come to a sequence of question types.  The first question is the easiest and is there to familiarise the students with the contents of the table. The next question as the students to then find some data and processes it. I notice that some of these are in nice round figures and start to think is this useful for differentiation. Does it match the tables that have less nutrients listed?. I now have two ways of manipulating the resources to make it easier or more difficult for the students to use. I'll wait till I'm almost done to make any drastic alterations to the resources.

The task begins to replicate exam question structure, which is good as it encourages and practices data processing. A thought of "How can I get them to question the data and interpret themselves?" appears in my head.  May be this is for a subsequent lesson.


It is at this point that I notice the data about each food listed is in cups and ounces. What nonsense, so I have to convert these. Luckily the replace function in word allows me to do this fairly quickly.  Despite this being a chore it is worth while as if I left it as unfamiliar units then students working memory would quickly be used working out this new information, instead of processing what I wanted them to.  

The next question is another data handling exercise, but this time it is using different parts of the table to get an answer. These tasks seem to be increasing in complexity.
The next question ( and probably the penultimate one ) asks the students to use a different source of information to find out something factual, this time about the deficiency symptoms of different nutrients. A simple comprehension exercise that will then lead to a more in depth look at one of the learning outcomes. I now need to find a resource that will allow the students to look at the deficiency symptoms using data and in more detail.

I have yet thought about the procedure or how to organise the students in this exercise, I have been mainly focused on the content knowledge/ skill within the exercise, and how to differentiate.

I've just found this great table, which organises the information from a different angle than I have been. So instead of organising the information from a Vitamin and Mineral point of view it has been done from a organ point of view. This reminds of Nuthalls rule  " If you hit the same information in the three or four different ways then learning will take place". For this reason alone I am going to use this resource. It will be an additional resource to use on the fourth question.

As I tried to another question on a different aspect of these micronutrients, I quickly realised that this would take away from the focus of this activity, and that the information I wanted them to interrogate would be perfect for me to model my thinking around. I ditch the idea.  Keep it simple for complex results.

Next time I will continue planning, working backwards from my input and to the starter activity.  I may have a ponder on how to run this activity in the class.