A Task is Not a Lesson

Does this image represent a lesson or a task?



I’ve noticed that opinions are split on this question with some people calling the image above a task and others calling it a lesson. In my opinion, unless an image like this includes a description of how the teachers and students will interact with the image, it’s a task. (Aside: There’s too much variety in how lessons are described to have a very clear definition of lesson in this post, so I’ll have to save that for a future post, but this blog post by Annie Forest on different lesson structures is a great read).

One might be able to imagine how you would use this task with students and form a lesson plan based on a task, but without some insight into the intended use of a task there is enormous variation in how any particular task might be used.

This is not just pedantry. There is significant evidence that how one teaches matters and that there is far more to teaching than just putting tasks in front of kids. As a profession, if we are to have any hope of solving the problem of communicating nuance about teaching with each other, we should at least start with being clear about how we use some basic professional terms like task and lesson.




  • Christian Klaue wrote:

    Great post. No ‘rant’ visible. I agree with needing clarity on how we define terms. Poor definitions create far too much conflict in discussions.

  • David Wees wrote:

    I actually thought of you as I wrote that sentence and remembered your lengthy Twitter discussions about defining terms carefully I’ve peeked in on from time to time.

  • Totally agree about the need for clarity!

    Instinctively, for me, the above is a task, simply because it might be one of the tasks I ask students to do in a lesson multiplying with negative numbers.

  • The task above looks like its been pulled from a lesson that asks the student to wonder about whether they see a pattern and what that pattern means. The strategy that I use in modeling a lesson has 3 parts. 1- Set the stage (for the activity that follows) 2- do the activity and 3- Debrief the activity (Hey kids, what did we learn today?) I was always surprised how often teachers would drop out the third part no matter how many times I reminded them during our debrief session.

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