Tool WC-3: Designing tasks

For this tool you will need the following resources:

  • WC-3 PowerPoint
  • Handout 1: Sample task 1 – Machine planning
  • Handout 2: Sample task 2 – Fencing

45minsThe aim of this tool is to introduce some important principles that will enable the group to design (or download_powerpointredesign) tasks so that these provide good opportunities for IBL and make effective connections with the world of work. The group will discuss these important principles, then critique a sample task and finally work on improving the potential of the task for IBL and connecting with the world of work.

It is fundamental to mascil professional learning that teachers have opportunities to design their own tasks that promote IBL and connections with the world of work. This allows for careful customisation of resources that best suit a teacher’s working context and his or her students. Teachers also need to be aware that the opportunities for IBL depend not only on the written task but also on the way it is used in the classroom.

As a coordinator, you should already be familiar with the mascil guide that provides advice about developing materials and this can be downloaded here.

classStart by introducing the group to the following approaches to re-design. Hold a brief discussion about any issues that arise when redesigning tasks in these ways.

Redesigning a structured textbook task

Often, it is not necessary to start from scratch when designing tasks that fit the characteristics of mascil. The most common starting point is a textbook problem situated in a (rich vocational) context. The activities presented to the students will, in this case, be typical textbook problems: highly structured, closed, divided in sub-problems, with a lot of guidance. For this type of problem you may keep the setting (the context), but change the activities. This can be done by opening them up, stating a purpose or starting with an authentic overarching problem in order to support inquiry-based learning.

Connecting an IBL task to the World of Work

The starting point for a mascil task may be an existing IBL-task for mathematics or science that is not yet related to the World of Work. In this case it is often possible to add contextual information from the WoW, to formulate activities for the students, related to similar authentic practices from the WoW, to give students a professional role and to define an appropriate product.

Then share the following guidelines for (re)design with the group.

Guidelines for (re)design

1. From a structured task to a task supporting IBL:

  • Look for the ‘real problem’ within the context. Take this as the focal point for redesign;
  • Create opportunities for students to become owners of the problem and develop their own solution strategies;
  • Skip sub-questions;
  • Scaffold students’ inquiry process with an appropriate lesson plan (e.g. introduction, process support and final goal need more attention compared to a structured task);
  • Provide guidelines about the final evaluation.

2. Connect to the WoW:

  • Explore the context and try to relate this to the WoW;
  • Think of a workplace practitioner and a workplace activity;
  • Determine a product connecting to the WoW for an audience.

3. Stimulate cooperation and communication:

  • Ask for products that can be presented or discussed;
  • Make sure the task asks for cooperative work (e.g. sharing of responsibilities);
  • Organise peer feedback.

Finally, be aware of the changing role of the task in the learning process of the students. In addition to content-related goals, the new task aims at developing process skills. In some cases this might be at the cost of attention for content knowledge. In other cases it might offer opportunities to deepen content knowledge, or to better assess students’ abilities.

Provide the group with copies of two sample tasks:

Handout 1: Sample task 1- Machine planning (the student worksheet only from the mascidownload_handoutl classroom materials on ‘Chocolate bar machine scheduling’)


Handout 2: Sample task 2 – Fencingdownload_handout


smallgroupAsk the teachers to work in small groups with one of these tasks. Note that Sample task 1 provides more scope for discussion about making connections to the world of work and Sample task 2 provides more scope for discussion about developing opportunities for IBL. For Sample task 1, the teacher guide in the Mascil classroom materials provides some ideas to supplement the task but the intention in this tool is for the teachers to think this through for themselves.

Ask each small group to consider the questions:

  • How structured is the task?
  • How does the task connect to the world of work?
  • What opportunities are there for cooperation and communication?

After some discussion about their sample task, the group should use the guidelines already provided to redesign the task and provide suggestions on the way in which it could be used in a classroom situation to promote IBL and/or make connections with the world of work. Each group should write down their main improvements and suggestions on large sheets of (flip chart) paper.

classBring the whole group together and ask each small group to make a brief presentation of their ideas. Discuss any common issues that arise from these presentations.

nextstepsIn order to work through the design principles thoroughly, teachers will probably need more time than can be provided in this session. Before next time they should either continue to work on the redesign of one of the sample tasks, or the group should select an alternative task for redesign. They should be ready to share their redesigned tasks at the next session and explain reasons for their changes to the original task. Preferably they should also use their task with a class and be able to report on the outcomes.