This is the second blog in this task design series. The first defined task design and discussed why it is an important part of practice – find it here.
From a functionalist perspective, the purpose of a task is the application of knowledge learnt. Following instruction from a more knowledgeable other, a learner undertakes a task to demonstrate what they have understood, and indeed, not understood.
The teacher has communicated knowledge to the learner; the task provides the opportunity for the learner to communicate their understanding of that same knowledge. Task design should therefore be predicated on ensuring that taught knowledge can be applied.
Tasks are the means through which a shared notion of knowledge can be built. Although this shared notion is also developed during the instructional phase, tasks are arguably more effective in establishing it. This is because a task always includes the same result for a learner to work towards – an understanding of the taught content through application.
If the learner arrives at this desired result, it is assumed that they have correctly understood the knowledge that was imparted (of course, as experience tells us, we know this is not necessarily the case). However, in arriving at the correct result, we can determine that the shared notion of knowledge has been successfully built.
Above, I posited that the purpose of tasks is to apply what has been learnt. While this may sound straightforward, this can be influenced quite drastically by a teacher’s view of learning.