Learning tasks

Ever since schools have existed teachers have set tasks to start learning processes in their pupils. Research into the topic of learning (mostly with a constructivist approach) as well as the use of teaching concepts that focus on co-operative, problem-solving and action-orientated learning mean that a new task format is required.

The (skills-orientated) learning tasks that have been chosen here should accompany and support the subject-related learning process. They are one way to consolidate skills that have been gained in a sustained manner and also to promote independent learning. The development of appropriate learning tasks is the basis for successful learning.
In the Teaching Units that have been compiled as part of this project, the learning tasks play a significant role in enabling pupils to acquire and to apply on their own subject-related methods and working techniques and also to learn how to learn. This should also (further) develop pupils' ability to learn.

The lessons resulting from this have therefore been looked at more from the pupils' point of view, so that more rigorous thinking and especially independent work can be furthered and developed. In the planning one must take the view "from the end" – which skills are to be developed. Only then can one formulate initial learning situations with matching learning tasks.
When formulating learning tasks situations should be planned that are relevant to pupils' everyday lives. Teachers choose an open learning format , in which pupils are given learning space in which they can work on their individual goals and strategies to solve the problem. They receive support by the learning tasks being pre-structured into smaller subtasks and from differentiated offers of help with varying levels of difficulty. Thus it is possible for pupils to an increased degree to organize, check and reflect on their own learning processes and also on those of their fellow pupils.

In the planning such teaching concepts require conscious decisions as to when the teacher will give pupils their grades. It must be made transparent and clear in which situations performance is expected and how it will be graded.

 „Wichtig ist, …dass in Schulen nicht Lernen und Leisten permanent miteinander vermischt werden, sondern dass es im Unterricht separat sowohl Lern- als auch Leistungssituationen gibt. In Leistungssituationen demonstriert der Schüler […], was er kann; er vermeidet Fehler, weil er subjektiv Erfolge erleben will, aber Misserfolge oft nicht vermeiden kann. In Lernsituationen wird in entspannter Weise Neues erfahren; aus Fehlern lernt man; Mitschüler sind nicht Konkurrenten, sondern Partner, Lehrer sind nicht Beurteilende, sondern Unterstützende. Entscheidend an Lern- und Leistungssituationen ist nicht, was der Lehrer beabsichtigt, sondern wie sie der Schüler erlebt.“ 2

Structuring the lessons by means of skills-orientated learning tasks will make the connection through which pupils are enabled to develop their skills in the subject-related and methodical work on their own.

Criteria for good learning tasks3

•    Learning strategies

Good learning tasks must enable problem-orientated work and also reflect the conditions for successful learning. This involves cumulative learning  as well as the acquisition of intelligent knowledge . An additive approach, through e.g. isolated training of partial skills, may lead to passive knowledge, but it will not enable pupils to solve complex tasks on their own. Solving such problems requires individual decisions about possible subtasks, the use of subject-related strategies and the ability to plan and monitor the learning process. These skills need to be learnt through doing learning tasks.

•    Thinking about the learning process and metacognition

Good learning tasks must prepare pupils to learn on their own; they must support pupils in actively following situations in the learning process, such as remembering what was previously learnt, integrating what has been learnt, thinking back over how the learning went and realistically evaluating the learning process and results. This requires metacognitive abilities. One cannot expect pupils to have these already; they must gain them gradually through the learning tasks.

•    Establishing links

Intelligent knowledge is built up through cumulative learning. Good learning tasks play an important part in ensuring that intelligent knowledge is gained cumulatively. Through well-designed learning tasks pupils must be able to draw on specialist knowledge, capabilities and skills that they can deepen, strengthen and consolidate in new learning contexts, so that they can activate them in other, comparable situations and can combine them constructively with new learning challenges.

•    Transparent processes and metacommunication

Important prerequisites for such intelligent knowledge and enhancement of learning are clearly defined goals, metacommunication as to the learning process and problem-solving methods in co-operative learning arrangements. Communication and discussion about the "how" to solve the task(s) in question makes gaining intelligent knowledge easier and enables pupils increasingly to carry out their learning on their own. Well-chosen learning tasks inspire metacommunication in co-operative discussion forms.

•    Problem solving

Well-chosen learning tasks exist in a thematic and a functional, factual context and/or in connection with a problem. Generally they are based on an open and complex concept relating to several subject areas. They provoke original problem-solving thinking among pupils and aim to build up a repertoire of strategies for gaining and processing knowledge that can be employed flexibly.

•    Complexity

Finally, well-chosen learning tasks should contribute to pupils being able solve complex tasks on their own, to strategically transfer possible problem-solving methods to other tasks and to develop by themselves problem-solving methods for problems that are either preset or that they come across.


The following working steps are useful for this.

Working steps to produce a skills-orientated learning task
- Formulate for all pupils an identical action and problem-solving situation
- Link it to prior knowledge and the activation of what pupils have experienced
- Present the result-orientated, complex task with its goal clearly defined
- Evaluation criteria
- Work through the individual subtasks
- By means of strategic help offer differentiation that each pupil can choose individually
- Further challenging tasks that have a real added value to enhance the discussions
- Make a product
- Feedback on and evaluation of the learning task

After Adler, Martina, Kirchner, Stefanie, Nietzel, Susan, „Kompetenzorientierte Lernaufgaben“, in: Praxis Schule „ Problemorientierte Aufgabenstellungen, Heft 4/2015, S.32-33


When doing the planning and evaluation you can use the following evaluation sheet.6



Drawing up the concept of a Teaching Unit with learning tasks can initially prove quite a challenge or even require a change of mind. In the end, however, the clear structure will make the teachers' planning work easier: analysing the pupils' possible difficulties will open for the teacher a store of supporting materials on which they can always draw.
Pupils will experience the teaching as transparent and well thought out. The steep increase in both subject-orientated as well as methodical skills will facilitate not only how this sequence of lessons is planned and worked through, but will also make possible an increase in personal and social skills (key skills).



1  https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/cms/upload/ue-deutsch/docs/modul_2/mod2_teil1.pdf (accessed on 18.08.2017 at 11:53 am)
2  In: Qualität als gemeinsame Aufgabe. Rahmenkonzept „Qualitätsentwicklung und Qualitätssicherung schulischer Arbeit“. Schriftenreihe Schule in NRW Nr. 9029. Frechen 2000, S. 16
3  vgl. P.R.J. Simons: Selbstgesteuertes Lernen, zit. Simons, Lernen. In: H. Mandl, H.F. Friedrich (Hrsg.): Lern- und Denkstrategien. Göttingen 1992, S. 251 – 264 in: https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/cms/upload/ue-deutsch/docs/modul_2/mod2_teil1.pdf (abgerufen am 24.08.2017, 11:10 Uhr)
4  Kumulatives Lernen verbindet neues Wissen und neue Fertigkeiten mit vorhandenen Wissens- und Fertigkeitsbeständen und integriert so die Ergebnisse vorhergehenden und aktuellen Lernens, so dass sie im Zusammenhang verfügbar sind, statt beziehungslos nebeneinander zu stehen.
5  Intelligentes Wissen bezeichnet ein System von flexibel nutzbaren fachlichen, überfachlichen und lebenspraktischen Kenntnissen, Fertigkeiten und Fähigkeiten sowie damit verbundener Wert- und Handlungsorientierungen, das durch systematischen Ausbau, Vernetzung und Anschlussfähigkeit für weiteres Lernen gekennzeichnet, in diesem Sinne intelligent ist.
Zitate aus: Qualität als gemeinsame Aufgabe. Rahmenkonzept „Qualitäts-entwicklung und Qualitätssicherung schulischer Arbeit“. Materialien Schul-entwicklung. Schriftenreihe Schule in NRW. Ritterbach1998
6  https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/cms/upload/ue-deutsch/docs/modul_2/mod2_teil1.pdf (abgerufen am 24.08.2017, 11:10 Uhr)


Literature / Links

•    http://www.josefleisen.de/downloads/kompetenzorientierung/01%20Kompetenzorientiert%20unterrichten%20-%20NiU%202011.pdf (accessed on 18.08.2017 at 11:53 am)
•    http://www.josefleisen.de/downloads/lehrenlernen/02%20Lernprozesse%20mithilfe%20von%20Lernaufgaben%20strukturieren%20-%20NiU%202010.pdf  (accessed on 24.08.2017 at 5:10 pm)
•    https://www.ph-karlsruhe.de/fileadmin/user_upload/fakultaet2/sozwiss/politik/PDF_Dateien/Breit_Weisseno_kompetenzorientierte_Lernaufgaben.pdf (accessed on 24.08.2017 at 5:11 pm)
•    https://verlage.westermanngruppe.de/westermann/artikel/63150400/Praxis-Schule-Problemorientierte-Aufgabenstellungen (accessed on 24.08.2017 at 5:15 pm)
•    vgl. P.R.J. Simons: Selbstgesteuertes Lernen, zit. Simons, Lernen. In: H. Mandl, H.F. Friedrich (Hrsg.): Lern- und Denkstrategien. Göttingen 1992, S. 251 – 264
•    https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/cms/upload/ue-deutsch/docs/modul_2/mod2_teil1.pdf (accessed on 24.08.2017 at 11:10 am)
•    https://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/cms/upload/ue-deutsch/docs/modul_2/mod2_teil4.pdf (accessed on 24.08.2017 at 11:12 am)


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Die Methodenkompetenz der Lehrerinnen und Lehrer hat die Verbesserung von Unterrichtsqualität zum Ziel.

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