Most student enjoy open-ended tasks because Just the thought that there is no single right answer can make them feel at ease and allows them to chart their own pathways for completion based on personal preferences, knowledge and understanding. Thus, the emphasis shifts from finding the final answer to the dynamics of the process. It also encourages students to take risks and make mistakes, leading to a more engaging lesson. Open-ended tasks are an effective differentiation strategy because students with different abilities can approach the same problem. Also, the finished product makes evident each student’s learning style. Also, substitute teachers will find that assigning open-ended tasks, whenever students have free time, is an effective way to engage students without having much information about their strengths and needs.
However, there are some important considerations when assigning open-ended tasks. Clear learning goals and success criteria should be communicated to students so that they know what they are trying to learn and do not drift off onto a tangent. The questions should be carefully worded so that they invite an elaboration of thoughts without tightly limiting the direction of the discussion, while assessing where the student is at. Examples include asking students to explain whether they agree or disagree with a peer’s idea or coming back to students to check and clarify their understanding after receiving feedback from peers. Many students give greater importance to the feedback received from peers than teachers; discussion should be encouraged.
In the following videos, Lucy West discusses the importance of conversations in the classroom.