What are the essential parts of a WebQuest?
There are six critical components in a WebQuest:
Caroline Murphy talks about how she gives students specific tasks they will be responsible for accomplishing. This kept them on track during a WebQuest.
The introduction section provides background information and motivational scenarios like giving students roles to play: "You are an underwater research scientist," or "You are an astronaut planning a trip to the moon." It also provides an overview of the learning goals to students.
The goal of the introduction is to make the activity desirable and fun for students. When projects are related to students' interests, ideas, past experiences, or future goals, they are inherently more interesting. The goal of the motivational component is to engage and excite students at the beginning of each WebQuest.
TIP: In a long-term WebQuest, the introduction can be stretched out over the course of the project. This helps to reinvigorate the students and allows for the incorporation of new material (some of which is generated by students as part of the process). The infusion from other media (prints, posters, models) and guest lecturers (other faculty members, parents, business leaders, experts, etc.) adds real-world components to online investigations. This is very imporant because depending on technology alone to convey the meaning of a lesson tends to create a sense of unreality. Adding "introductory" types of information and material throughout the duration of the WebQuest keeps students fully engaged.
Bernie Dodge, the developer of the WebQuest, talks about how WebQuests can be built to give kids a head-start in learning.
The task is a formal description of what students will have accomplished by the end of the WebQuest.
First, the teacher finds resources for a particular topic on the Web. Then, the teacher devises an activity for the students that incorporates the information from the various sites. This task should be doable and interesting.
Developing this task -- or the main research question -- is the most difficult and creative aspect of creating a WebQuest. Students can be asked to publish their findings on a Web site, collaborate in an online research initiative with another site or institution, or create a multimedia presentation on a particular aspect of their research. The task should be visually and aesthetically appealing, inherently important (global warming, acid rain, welfare policy, etc.), and fun for the students.
TIP: Show your students an example of a finished project. Students get to "see the whole picture" at the beginning of the project, and have a better understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. Showing them examples of previous student work is great; otherwise, a "mock-up" will suffice. There may also be examples of similar student projects on the Web. The best scenario occurs when you have several examples that show students a range of effort and achievement. This allows them to assess and calibrate their own efforts as they begin work on the project.
A successful project can be reused by the teacher several times (either with a different class or the next semester). Each time the unit can be modified and refined. And you can challenge your students to come up with something that goes further and deeper than those before them.
This is a description of the steps learners should go through in accomplishing the task, with links embedded in each step.
Good examples can been seen in the "Organizers for Students" Thirteen Ed Online lesson plans . Another example can be found in the Demonstration section of this workshop.
TIP: For a long-term project, it is advisable to have a demonstration of each step either by the teacher or an able student (or two). The demonstration takes the students through the process step-by-step and reinforces written directions.
Tom Fehrenbacher, teacher at Hoover High School, talks about his experience with group work at the computer.
This section of the WebQuest consists of a list of the resources (bookmarked Web sites, print resources, etc.) that your students will need to complete the task.
In older WebQuests, you'll find the resources listed in a section of their own. More recent WebQuests have the resources embedded within the Process section, to be accessed at the appropriate time. It's important to remember that non-Web resources can also be used. Variety is the spice of life, and WebQuests are enhanced by materials that supplement the online resources. These can include things like videos, audio cassettes, books, posters, maps, models, manipulatives, and sculptures. Visiting lecturers, team teaching, field trips, and other motivational techniques can also be used.
Each WebQuest needs a rubric
1 for evaluating students' work.
The standards should be fair, clear, consistent, and specific to the tasks set. Many of the theories of assessment, standards, and constructivism apply to WebQuests: clear goals, matching assessments to specific tasks, and involving the learners in the process of evaluation are all concepts from earlier workshops that apply here.
Susan Steinbach, Teacher at Hawthorn Elementary, talks about how WebQuests can be suited for independent learning and a variety of student learning styles.
TIP: During the introductory stage of the WebQuest, it can be very helpful to point out three types of student examples: exemplary, acceptable, and unacceptable. The range between exemplary and acceptable work may be great and will spur the students to strive for excellence, while the demonstration of what constitutes unacceptable work will set clear minimum standards for all to achieve. The goal is for all students to have a good experience of the project.
This step allows for reflection by the students and summation by the teacher. Setting aside time for discussion of possible extensions and applications of the lesson honors the constructivist principle: "We learn by doing -- but we learn even better by talking about what we did." During the concluding section of a WebQuest, you can encourage your students to suggest ways of doing things differently to improve the lesson.