Real-world Tasks and Applied Learning Activities

The following sections on real-world tasks and applied learning activities characterize these ideas and describes how they are related. The main point is that real-world tasks have analogous counterparts in applied learning activities that should mirror as closely as possible their real-world counterparts.

Real-world tasks

  • Real-world tasks are performed by those working in a domain.
  • Real-world tasks vary along several dimensions such as context and complexity.
  • Real-world tasks consist of constituent skills.
  • Performance of real-world tasks and constituent skills demonstrates competence.

Applied learning activities

  • Applied learning activities are models of real-world tasks.
  • Applied learning activities vary along the same dimensions as their corresponding real-world counterparts, such as in context and complexity.
  • Applied learning activities consist of constituent skills that are similar to the constituent skills used to complete real-world tasks.
  • Performance of applied learning activities and their constituent skills demonstrates competence and provides evidence of knowing.

Whole-task and Part-task learning activities

Whole-task refers to a comprehensive applied learning activity that corresponds to a real-world competency. An example would be to design a plant breeding program. Whole-tasks consist of part-tasks that typically represent constituent skills that are often used in multiple whole-task learning activities. An example would be to decide on methods for advancing progeny in a breeding program, or methods and criteria for evaluating plants. Of course, depending on perspective, a part-task could be viewed as a whole-task with its own part-tasks and constituent skills.

Whole-task mastery focuses on complex real-world tasks that demonstrate overall competency. Applied learning activities for this type of comprehensive task should be characterized by content and situational context, and require previous mastery of constituent skills that are needed for task performance. The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy levels for these tasks would be Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating.

Constituent skill mastery focuses on an independent unit of ability that is required to perform an overall competency. Constituent skill learning activities should also be characterized by content context and situational context, and more often than not, represent a skill that is used in multiple competencies. Examples include the ability to identify relevant features of a problem, how to select an appropriate statistical test, or how to construct a Punnett square. The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy levels for these skills would generally be Remember, Understand, and Apply. Note that I have included Apply in both categories, which emphasizes the relative nature and perspective of these levels. The important point is not that you assign an activity to a specific level, rather, it is that you think carefully about what you are trying to achieve and what methods you are employing to do so.