November/December 2001 // Case Studies
Pathways for Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach
by Donna G. Wood
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Donna G. Wood "WebQuests:
Pathways for Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach" The Technology Source, November/December 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Because pre-service teachers often lack sufficient problem-solving skills and rely too much upon instructors for direction, I redesigned Technology in Education, a required course that I teach for pre-service teachers at Oklahoma's Northeastern State University at Tahlequah, to help my students develop the self-directed learning skills necessary for their careers as educators.

This case study describes my attempt to transition from teacher-initiated, teacher-delivered instruction to an instructional method that involves real-life applications and employs the principles of constructivist pedagogy. Some of those real-life applications included case studies and project-based assessment. The pre-service teachers used software such as presentations, spreadsheets, Web editors, and desktop publishing; they used hardware such as personal computers, digital cameras, and scanners in preparing their instructional delivery. They also planned for their K-12 students to use technology in their learning process. The objectives of this course satisfy the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards for preparing candidates to use computers and related technologies in educational settings.

Constructivist principles posit that forms of directed instruction such as lectures are too rigid and teacher-centered; student activities must focus upon generating knowledge based upon what students already know. Students typically work in groups rather than individually. The learning activities involve projects that require solutions to problems rather than instructional sequences that require learning certain content skills. Accordingly, the teacher's job in the constructivist model is to arrange for required resources and act as a guide to students while they set their own goals and "teach themselves" (Roblyer & Edwards, 2000).

All pre-service teachers at Northeastern State University must learn to employ technology as productivity tools and instructional delivery tools . In response to the need to provide these future teachers with a learning situation similar to actual teaching situations, I searched for a constructivist model that I could apply to Technology in Education, eventually discovering a teaching resource Web site called WebQuest.

The WebQuest Model for Instructional Design and Its Components

Bernie Dodge and Tom March of San Diego State University developed the WebQuest model in early 1995. WebQuest—an inquiry-driven, problem-solving simulation—requires that learners draw most, if not all, of the information they use directly from the Web. In my course, the simulation for students in Technology in Education places them as members of the Oklahoma Governor's Task Force for Technology in Education and asks them to develop resources that will help public school teachers to integrate technology into their work. Students gather information from the Web that allows them to use computers for productivity, instructional delivery, problem-solving, communication, and the implementation of current instructional principles.

In a WebQuest, learners search for information based on the "quest" of the course content objective. For example, the quest or question for Technology in Education is, "How do I infuse technology into the teaching and learning process?" WebQuests require students to approach their task with advanced thinking, specifically in terms of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. A learner analyzes a body of knowledge deeply, transforms it in some way, and demonstrates an understanding of the material by creating something that others can respond to, online or offline. In our case, students analyzed current uses of technology, and transformed this information into how technology is used in teaching and learning today. From there, they created instructional material for training public school teachers in the use of technology in an educational setting (Dodge, 1995).

A WebQuest simulation provides a straightforward instructional design for learners by categorizing the simulation into six components: introduction, task, process, resources, evaluation, and conclusion. It includes attributes of group activities, motivational elements such as role playing (i.e., scientist, detective, reporter), simulated personae to interact with via e-mail, and a scenario to work within (i.e., you've been asked by the Secretary General of the UN to brief him on what's happening in sub-Saharan Africa this week). WebQuests can be designed within a single discipline or they can be interdisciplinary. To support this newly-designed, upper-level education course, I developed a similar Web site, A WebQuest for Technology in Education.

Introduction: Identifying Objectives and Outcomes

The objectives for Technology in Education are taken from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Foundation Standards. These standards reflect professional studies in education that emphasize fundamental concepts and skills for applying information technology in educational settings. ISTE states that all candidates seeking initial certification or endorsements in teacher preparation programs should have opportunities to meet the educational technology foundations standards. These foundation standards were approved by NCATE in 1996. The pre-service teachers must first master the ISTE standards before they can train Oklahoma's public school teachers.

The WebQuest model suggests that students should determine the ways in which outcomes will be achieved, and therefore, evaluated. For example, the ISTE skill/concept, "to design K-12 student learning activities that foster equitable, ethical, and legal use of technology" could be demonstrated in several ways. Students choose the method of demonstration (i.e., lesson plans containing activities to foster ethical and legal attitudes, an acceptable use policy, an electronic slide presentation describing the Copyright Act, or perhaps legal case studies which other pre-service teachers could consult). Students will retain all of these performance-based outcomes for the final culminating activity at the conclusion of the course.

The Team-Based Task

The task page of my WebQuest site opens with this greeting: "Congratulations! You have been selected as a member of the Oklahoma Governor's Task Force for Technology in Education." As members of this Task Force, pre-service teachers were required to work in teams; the goal of each team was to develop a plan, a curriculum, and instructional materials that could be used to train public school teachers in methods of integrating technology into their own classrooms. To complete this task, the teams ultimately produced a multimedia Web site or a personal training session that would subsequently be accessible to any public school teacher in the state of Oklahoma. They also created content Web sites for K-12 students. The time period that students spent in creating and completing this project was the equivalent of three hours of academic credit.

Process: Learning as a Collaborative Effort

The five- to six-member interdisciplinary teams provided multiple lenses through which to examine the learning process and the products of the task. These teams used the jigsaw strategy of collaborative learning, in which, according to Aronson (2000), an instructor divides an assignment into areas so that each team member can choose one area in which he or she becomes an "expert" through research and study.

Students who become experts in a certain area typically work together across teams and then reassemble with their "home" team to teach what they have learned to other members of their team. Through this process, by the end of the semester, the team members develop expertise in all areas of the project (if students fulfill their roles adequately). A student who chooses, for example, to become the expert in presentations software for his/her group would search for and use any available resource to master the skills required for constructing presentations in either PowerPoint or Corel Presentations. In turn, presentations experts from each team would collaborate in preparing to teach their own team members the appropriate software, creating instructional materials and/or a Web site in the process. As the students fulfill their tasks individually as well as collaboratively, the process page of the Web site gives them a framework of the steps they need to take.

At the conclusion of the semester, each team either conducts teacher-training sessions with public school teachers or constructs a Web site that will guide public school teachers in learning the concepts/skills required by this course objective. The majority of students chose to conduct face-to-face training sessions. Through preparing for the teacher-training sessions, the pre-service teachers experience an important learning principle: that learners may achieve similar learning outcomes while following multiple learning paths.

The Technology in Education course is structured and designed as a WebQuest and, as mentioned earlier, the quest is for pre-service teachers to determine through many resources and guidelines facilitated by the instructor how to answer the question, "How do I infuse technology into the teaching and learning process?" By supplying guidance for gathering data rather than giving students answers for acquiring the concepts/skills required by ISTE standards, students are challenged to find the answers and then develop a plan of how they will demonstrate mastery of the standards. Examples of student projects have been lesson plans, mini-lesson presentations, Web pages, or WebQuests for their K-12 students.

Identifying Appropriate Resources

A resource page directs students to additional Web sites and printed materials that they might consult in completing their tasks. The resources selected provide information that would address the ISTE standards, i.e., tutorials for Microsoft Office and Corel which addresses the standard, "use productivity tools for word processing, database management, and spreadsheet applications." In addition, the resource page provides links to professional sites to encourage lifelong learning in the teaching profession (i.e., the Oklahoma Department of Education Standards for K-12 Content Areas, journal articles (Mangan-Lev, 1997) related to the ISTE Standards, and even time management for busy teachers). Such a range of resources further enables students to enhance their skill levels through multiple learning paths.

Assessment and Evaluation

Just as learners choose multiple paths in this method of delivery, they also choose paths through the assessment of outcomes. Learners monitor their progress by assessing the suitability of their choices in light of the feedback offered by the simulation itself and by reflecting on alternative results that they might have obtained from making different choices (e.g., a rationale for choosing a Web site over a slide presentation).

As their instructor, I monitored the progress of each team member for their perception of learning. Then, I checked with the team as a whole to determine the progress that they had made toward reaching the course objectives. Each team member also assessed each expert member's instruction; for instance, peers evaluated the presentations software expert on their team, and, after instruction, the expert assessed the team members' relative mastery of a given lesson objective (e.g., how to create a grade sheet using a spreadsheet program).

Experts also used the KWHL chart (developed by Greg Freeman) as a tool to help students monitor their progress. This chart allows students to plan lessons, access resources, and identify attributes and characteristics of their research. Students also created a calendar for an entire semester that specified the amount of time allotted for particular projects and the dates of instruction for concepts relating to those projects.

The course's Web site also includes three pages that serve as guides for learners. Aside from the process page, the learning advice page provides checkpoints that allow students to monitor their progress. By referring to these checkpoints, students remain deeply involved throughout the assessment experience. The learning advice page also includes questions that prompt learners to reflect on how thoroughly they have achieved the objectives. This page helps learners to ask themselves whether other choices might have produced more satisfactory results, whether other steps need to be taken, or whether other strategies need to be employed.

Evaluation of the course as a whole took two forms. At midterm students evaluated the instructional design of the course using an instrument that I created by using concepts drawn from Johanna Keirns's Designs for Self-Instruction (1999). On these midterm evaluations, students indicated that they needed more direct support and assistance from me; in one-on-one interviews, they revealed that they felt a need for more initial training in using Web resources as well as more verbal directions. Other students complained that some of their team member experts did not provide adequate instruction in their individual area, a shortcoming that affected individual members' ability to learn the complete course content.

At the conclusion of the course, when I re-administered the same evaluation, students expressed satisfaction with the additional support that I offered during the second half of the term. They reported, however, that they perceived learning with colleagues as less satisfactory than support provided by me as their instructor. Since I designed these evaluations to be more qualitative than quantitative, I used them as a source for ways to improve the course rather than as part of a rigorous research project.


In moving so quickly from traditional teacher-centered instruction to this kind of self-directed and Web-based course design, I discovered that some adjustments were necessary for meeting the instructional goals I had set for the course. I found that I needed to provide additional training and support necessary for students to work effectively as teams. Toward that end, I now place more emphasis on various issues involved in teamwork (e.g., equity, ethics, legal, and human issues). At the beginning of the course, I employ a combination of teamwork and individual work, moving more gradually into the team-based scenario. I also learned that, even with checkpoints and evaluation tools, a course facilitator often needs to spend more time monitoring and guiding progress than I once perceived.

Ultimately, using the WebQuest model allowed me to form a contract with my students—a contract whereby I could provide information and hands-on experience for them to develop their own new skills, as well as the pedagogical knowledge that will form the basis for their professional career. My greatest reward was to see these pre-service teachers learning within a framework that allowed them to reflect upon their own progress in the course.


Aronson, E. (2000). Jigsaw classroom: Overview of the technique. In Jigsaw Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.jigsaw. org/overview.htm

Dodge, B. (1995). Some thoughts about WebQuests. San Diego: Educational Technology Department, San Diego State University. Retrieved January 16, 1998, from San Diego State University, Educational Technology Web site:

Keirns, J. (1999). Designs for self-instruction: Principles, processes, and issues in developing self-directed learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Mangan-Lev, M. (1997). The connection between cooperative learning and authentic assessment. Adventures in Assessment, 10, 9-13. Retrieved October 24, 2001, from

Roblyer, M. D., & Edwards, J. (2000). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

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