What’s in a webquest?

So, what’s in a webquest? Before starting, though, let’s take a minute to consider some of the following questions. (You might jot down some of your own ideas if you’re truly ambitious!)

  • What is a webquest? Is it the same thing as doing online research?
  • What is the purpose of a webquest? What sorts of language skills are they meant to develop? What about thinking skills?
  • How should a webquest be structured?
  • Are there any resources available online for finding, adapting, exploiting or creating webquests?

Alright, enough with the questions. Let’s get to some of the answers.

What is a webquest?

Bernie Dodge, largely considered the father of modern webquests, has defined webquests as “…an inquiry-oriented activity in which some or all of the information that learners interact with comes from resources on the internet“.  Tom March went further, offering this definition:

“A WebQuest is a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of a central, open-ended question, development of individual expertise and participation in a final group process that attempts to transform newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding.”

Ok, great! But how does it work in practice?

Structuring a Webquest

It turns out, webquest enthusiasts have largely agreed on a fundamental structure that most webquests can employ. The stages are:

  1. Introduction: where the overall theme of the quest is introduced
  2. Task: where the learners are instructed on what they have to do
  3. Process: the activity stage that the learners work through
  4. Evaluation: a final stage which is designed to encourage learner self-evaluation and reflection

If you’re interested in more details about these stages, check this article on the BC’s Teaching English page.

Skills Development

One of the criticisms launched against webquests is that they develop/promote low-order thinking skills (copy & pasting answers from websites). Advocates of webquests disagree, suggesting that webquests are a constructivist, inquiry-oriented learning process that develop higher order thinking skills–not simply “internet scavenger hunts.” The fault, they suggest, lies in poor design. In terms of language education, poor webquests encourage learners to simply copy/paste answers from a text, whereas a well designed webquest will require learners to respond to newly encountered information in a meaningful, productive task. (For more on this, consider listening to this podcast interview of Bernie Dodge)

Moving Forward with Webquests

Are you interested in seeing more examples of ‘good’ webquests? Consider visiting the following sites:

Questions? Please post them in the comment thread below this post.


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