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Webquests - an experiment
by James Frith
- 3

After analysing the theory and learning about searching for and selecting appropriate internet materials, the final week of the course involved producing a webquest appropriate to the needs and interests of a group of learners. The group I chose is an intermediate group of students on a summer course where the principal focus is on developing oral communication skills. Using a webquest with this class will conform to this goal and, in this situation, where I am not tied to a coursebook syllabus, I also have the time available to attempt a longer unit of project work such as this.

The group is made up of young Spanish professionals in their twenties and thirties. One of the key issues for the group is that of getting onto and moving up the property ladder and so this is what I chose as the theme for the webquest I was to write. This theme has the additional benefit that it is not too specific to one particular group of learners and can be used with other groups, an important consideration in material writing.

The group had specifically asked for discussion material and so I incorporated joint decision making tasks into the project. I was also careful to maintain a strong visual focus in all stages in order to cater for a tendency within the group toward this style of “intelligence”.

The task in the resulting webquest (see appendix for webquest and lesson plan) is to select a property to “buy” from the internet, furnish it and produce a visual display on card including a plan of the house and a text outlining reasons for the choices made. This is to be followed by a written self-evaluation. The final product mirrors tasks which the students may have to perform in English in their professional lives in that some of the students are required to attend meetings, analyse and transform information and provide a written report for their company.

My objectives for the experiment are to provide a learner-centred approach through interesting and stimulating material, visual and kinesthetic stimuli and tasks modelled on those performed in real life. I also hope to provide opportunities for meaningful communication and co-operation, analysis and transformation of information and self-evaluation as a step towards learner autonomy. I am particularly interested to see how well the students respond to self-evaluation, something which I have never tried before.

In order to assess whether these objectives have been met I will use three main techniques.

  • Firstly I will use feedback from the students themselves, both from the evaluation stage and from informal discussion after the final stage. They should be able to tell me whether or not they were motivated by the medium, the material and the tasks. Through the evaluation stage I hope to encourage the students to consider whether co-operation successfully took place. I also hope to see whether a self-evaluation stage is a realistic and worthwhile technique which I should incorporate into my repertoire.
  • Informal monitoring will also play a role. This will be carried out both by myself and by a colleague who is going to observe a part of the project.
  • Finally, I will be able to use the final products created by the students to gauge how successful the students have been in analysing and transforming the information they found on the internet.

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