How to Design Better Learning Tasks for Common Core SuccessGRASPS McTighe

The Common Core Standards call for a deeper, more complex understanding of material than many schools have required before. To prepare students for Common Core success, the assignments and assessments that educators give their students will need to change as well, says best-selling author and education expert Jay McTighe.

McTighe, whose education experience includes both teaching and state-level leadership in Maryland, has written a book with ideas for how to design more rigorous, authentic learning tasks and assessments to better prepare students for Common Core success.

As large-scale accountability tests become more demanding, this “underscores the value of building and using rich, conceptually and cognitively demanding tasks with kids,” he says, so they become increasingly able to think and apply their learning to new and more challenging scenarios.

McTighe refers to the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) framework developed by Norman Webb to illustrate what he means by rich performance tasks. In Webb’s DOK framework, there are four levels for defining the complexity of a task:

Level 1: Recall and Reproduction (requires only basic recall of information)

Level 2: Skills and Concepts (includes some mental processing beyond recalling; usually involves more than one step)

Level 3: Short-term Strategic Thinking (requires planning, reasoning, using evidence, analysis)

Level 4: Extended Thinking (complex tasks undertaken over time; requires sophisticated thinking and creativity)

Before the Common Core, state assessments used mostly Level 1 items, with some Level 2 items mixed in. Now, students will be expected to complete mostly Level 2 and Level 3 items—and the tasks and assessments that teachers give their students should reflect this level of complexity as well, McTighe says.

High-quality performance tasks “are set in a context, … and as much as possible, we should make this [context] authentic” to the experiences and interests of students, he says.

McTighe outlines his own framework for designing rich, authentic performance tasks that will better prepare students for Common Core success. His framework is called GRASPS, which is an acronym for:

Goal: What is the student’s goal in the scenario you’ve designed?

Role: What is the student’s role in the task or project?

Audience: Who is the intended audience for the task or performance?

Situation: What is the situation you’ve designed?

Products (or Performances): What are students expected to produce?

Standards: What standards are you assessing with the task?

Here’s an example that might be used as the culmination of a unit in which students have learned about a geographic region:

“The Department of Tourism has asked for your help in planning a four-day tour of [region] for a group of foreign visitors. Plan the tour to help the visitors understand the history, geography, and key economic assets of the region. You should prepare a written itinerary, including an explanation of why each site was included on the tour.”

And here’s a template that can be adapted to a variety of scenarios, called “What’s Your Position?”

“After reading ____, write a ____ that compares ____ and argues ____. Be sure to support your position with evidence from the texts.”

McTighe gave two examples showing how this template can be adapted:

McTighe gave two examples showing how this template can be adapted:

“After researching school policies and student/staff opinions on internet filters in schools, write a (blog post, letter to the school board, editorial for the school paper) that argues for your position. Support your position with evidence from your research. Be sure to acknowledge competing views.”

“What makes something funny? After reading selections from Mark Twain and (contemporary humorist), write a review that compares their humor and argues which type of humor works for a contemporary audience and why. Be sure to support your position with evidence from the texts.”

McTighe’s final advice for preparing students for Common Core success? Think like a coach, he says. “Don’t think of the curriculum as simply a long list of knowledge and skill objectives to be ‘covered.’ Think of your job as helping learners get better at the performances that matter most.”

McTighe’s book, Core Learning: Assessing What Matters Most, was published using School Improvement Network’s LumiBook platform, a robust eBook platform that includes web links, video clips, and opportunities for discussion with the author and with other readers.

In McTighe’s LumiBook, you can find dozens of other templates and examples of rich performance tasks that can help you better prepare students for Common Core success. And here’s a webinar in which he explains some of the core concepts from his LumiBook.

The webinar is one of thousands of content-rich videos contained in Edivate, School Improvement Network’s on-demand, highly personalized professional learning platform. To sign up for a free trial and explore what this platform has to offer, click here.



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