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wdkctasks

wdkctasks

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Academic Tasks in ClassroomsAuthor(s): Walter Doyle and Kathy CarterSource:
Curriculum Inquiry,
Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer, 1984), pp. 129-149Published by:
on behalf of the
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Academic
Tasks
in
Classrooms
WALTER DOYLER&DCenterforTeacherEducation,TheUniversityofTexas atAustinKATHYCARTERPowellAssociates,Inc.,Austin,TexasInrecentyearsthere has beenagrowinginterestin thestudyof classroomstructures,thatis,regularized patternsforconductingworkandprocessinginformationinclassroomenvironments(see,forexample,Bossert, 1978;Doyle,1979b, 1981;Gump,1969;Hammersley,1974;Kounin andGump,1974;Mehan,1979;SinclairandCoulthard, 1975;Soar andSoar, 1979;Yinger,1982).In thistypeofinquiry,attentionisdirected toquestionsof howeventsinclassroomsarearrangedand interrelatedintime andspaceandhoworganizationaffectslearning.Most studies of classroom structures haveemphasizedsocial dimensions.Oneparticularlyactive traditionhascenteredon"participationstructures,"i.e.,theorganizationofturn-takingingrouplessons andthewaysinwhichthisorganizationaffectsaccess toinstructionalresourcessuchasteacher attentionoropportunitiestopracticeacademic skills(seeAu,1980;Mehan, 1979;Philips,1972).Thesestudieshaveshown thatstudentsneedsocialorinterpretivecompetencetoparticipatesuccessfullyinclassroom events.A second clusterofstudies hasemphasizedperceptionsof and attitudes towardsubjectmatter(seeAnderson, 1981; Bloome,1981;Blumenfeld,Pintrich, Meece,andWessels,1982;Davis andMcKnight,1976;Stake andEasley,1978).These studies havefoundthatteachers' and students' attentioninclassroomsis oftendominatedbyconcernsformaintainingorder andfinishing assignments.AsaresultDatagatheringforthisstudywassupportedinpartbyagrantfrom the NorthTexasStateUniversityOrganizedResearchFund.SupporttotheseniorauthorduringthewritingofthisreportwasprovidedinpartbytheNational InstituteofEducationContractOB-NIE-80-0116,P2,ClassroomOrganizationnd EffectiveTeachingProject.Theopinions expressedhereindo notnecessarilyreflectthepositionorpolicyof the NIE andnoofficial endorsementbythat officeshouldbeinferred.
?1984bythe Ontario InstituteforStudiesin Education.PublishedbyJohn Wiley&Sons,Inc.CURRICULUMINQUIRY14:2(1984)CCC0362-6784/84/020129-21$04.00
 
WALTERDOYLEAND KATHYCARTER/CI
teachersoften concentrateongivingdirections forcompletingandhandinginwork rather thanexplainingthesubstanceofassignments,and studentsfrequentlyhavelittleunderstandingof themeaningorpurposeoftheworktheydo(Brophy,1982;DuffyandMcIntyre,1982).Theseinvestigationshaveprovidedimportantinsightsinto the natureofschooling,but moreneedsto beknownabout the academicwork stu-dentsactually accomplish(seeBuchmann,1982;Confrey,1982)andhowthatworkis affectedbyclassroomevents(Erickson,1982).The fieldstudy reportedinthis articlewas apreliminary attemptto examinecloselythe structureofacademicworkinclassrooms.
ConceptualFramework
Thestudywas built aroundDoyle's(1979a,1979b,1980)conceptualframeworkforintegratingthemanagerialandacademicdimensionsofclassroom life.Acentralcomponentofthis frameworkis theconceptof"classroomtasks,"aconceptderivedfrom recent work incognitivepsy-chologyandcognitiveanthropology(seeDawes,1975;Frederiksen, 1972;LaboratoryofComparativeHumanCognition,1978;Rothkopf,1976).The term "task" s usedtodesignatethesituational structuresthatorganizeand directthoughtand action.Taskscontain,inotherwords,theplansfor behavior that are embeddedinsettings(seeBarker,1963),plansthatarea centralpartofcognitionforparticipantsinthesetting(seeEricksonandShultz,1981).Thestudyoftasks,then,providesawaytoexaminehow students'thinkingaboutsubjectmatter is orderedbyclassroom events.Tasksorganize cognitionbydefiningagoalandprovidinginstructionsforprocessinginformationwithin agivensetting.Ataskhas three ele-ments:(a)agoalorproduct;(b)aset of resourcesor"givens"availableinthesituation;and(c)a set ofoperationshatcan beappliedtothe resourcesto reach thegoalorgeneratetheproduct.
Students'Tasks
Fromthisperspective,the curriculumconsistsof a set ofacademic tasksthatstudentsencounterinclassrooms.Students areguidedinprocessinginformationinclassrooms,inotherwords,bythetaskstheyarerequiredtoaccomplishwithsubjectmatter.Theycan beasked,forinstance,torecognizeorreproduceinformationpreviouslyencountered,applyanalgorithmto solveproblems, recognizetransformedversionsof infor-mation fromtextsorlectures,or selectfromamongseveralproceduresthosewhichareapplicableto aparticular typeofproblem.Eachof thesetasksrepresentsadifferentsetofinformation-processingoperationsaswell as adifferent level ofunderstandingofthecontent.Academic tasks aredefinedby(a)therequirementsfor theproductsstudents areexpectedto handin,such asanexpositoryessayora testpaper;(b)theresourcesavailabletostudents whileaccomplishingwork,
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