Designing Activities/Anatomy of an Activity


Activities impact best when they have structure. A proven, in research and action, framework for activities springboards from the Community of Inquiry camp. Educators design an activity with: a trigger; opportunity to explore; challenge to integrate knowledge; and time to reflect or resolve. When these are present, higher order skills are extended and solidified.

How it works

Each activity can be broken into separate and somewhat distinct parts:

A trigger may be a small asset - a quote, 3 minute video, cartoon, Quizlet game, pre-test, online poll, or statistical point to ponder (just to name a few!) or a larger resource.

Exploring may be an individual or group activity. Students may be: critically analyzing a video clip; critically reading a report or journal article; participating in a jigsaw or fishbowl strategy; dissecting a case study; or locating supporting and/or contradicting resources. They may be critically reviewing software, architectural designs, government or corporate strategies, advertising campaigns, community programming, etc. with prompts and guidance from educators. (See Durham College's CAFE website for a description of some of these activities.)

For integration, students may be challenged to: contribute a critique; report via a SW/COT (Strengths, Weaknesses/Challenges, Opportunities, Threats) analysis; participate in a debate; propose X number of alternatives; deduce or predict what happens when a variable is changed; collaborate on a presentation; produce a PSA  (Public Service Announcement) or informational video or infographic, etc. Often this is the aspect of the activity that is assessed - diagnostically, formatively, or summatively.

Reflection or resolution may be as simple as a muddiest point, minute paper, or quick quiz/poll. It may roll into a larger assessment, be a formal ePortfolio artefact, or a structured discussion topic. These are just a few ideas to close the learning loop. Students require time to reflect, reconcile, and resolve, but the pace at which education moves these days, it is a challenge. Framing activities and intentionally developing and connecting the various parts supports learning as a process.

How to redesign activities

Invite a colleague - from your program or from CTL - for a coffee. Bring a learning outcome whose activities and assessment(s) you want to reconsider. Pointer: Bring the learning outcome, not the assignment itself. Often educators are too tied to what we’ve use in the past and find it difficult to deconstruct. Collaborate on how you might ignite a person’s interest in the content. What types of resources do you need to explore the concepts? Make some decisions around individual or group learning and plot strategies accordingly. How will you measure students’ grasp of the concepts and content? What method should you use to gain their feedback or reflection?

Who can help you at Mohawk

The variety of resources are key here. Next step would be to connect with your Librarians to see what high quality resources exist to support your topic(s). If you are stuck, unsure, or unhappy with the strategies brainstormed, loop in more CTL assistance. Your Curriculum Specialists and Instructional Designers provide input on instructional strategies and educational technology tools respectively to engage students’ interest and abilities.

More information

Teaching and Learning Guide from the Library: this guide lists books, articles and other resources on a variety of teaching and learning topics.