The Making of a Good Journey
The WebQuest is perhaps the most ubiquitous Web-based activity found in
classrooms today. In 1995, San Diego State University professor Bernie
Dodge devised an instructional model for a goal-oriented Internet project
Working with Pacific Bell Education Fellow
Tom March, the two found a way to make full use of the resources of the
Web and its intrinsic appeal to students. Like any instructional practice,
it has taken on a life of its own, and today examples of both good and
bad WebQuests can be found.
What is a WebQuest?
As defined by Bernie Dodge, "A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity
in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from
the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on
using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners'
thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation."
With the WebQuest instructional model, students use
the Internet as a research tool to answer questions, pose hypotheses,
and form opinions depending on the specific instructional objectives.
This all typically occurs in the context of a larger project that allows
students to explore issues and content from a variety of perspectives.
Complex Webquests can be especially well suited to
teams of students, among whom tasks can be divided and information can
A well-designed Web-quest can embody some of the
best ideas in innovative instructional practices used today.
Worthy Goals: Task, Knowledge, and Thought
The goal of the WebQuest is to involve students in a meaningful task that
results in knowledge acquisition and higher order thinking.
A WebQuest can engage many of the skills listed high
on Bloom's taxonomy of skills. In an assignment that is process oriented,
it may sound impossible to utilize divergent thinking patterns. However,
a WebQuest can be designed to carefully guide students to processes of
analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. In fact, it is this very characteristic
of the WebQuest that makes it such a powerful tool for educators. Call
it open-ended process-driven learning.
Another boon for students is the opportunity to engage
in a goal-oriented task that integrates the Web. The activities motivate
especially those students who see the Web as valued part of their culture.
These activities can teach them effective strategies for using the information
Creating a WebQuest
Don't expect to sit down and write a good WebQuest in a half hour the
night before you want to introduce it. Plan on spending a minimum of three
hours preparing a short Web Quest and more time for a longer, more complex
It can take years to hone a really good one, as evidenced
by Tom March's excellent Searching
for China. Note the copyright spans seven years; the author concedes
it is an ever-evolving work in progress!
The WebQuest has a well-defined lesson plan that
is shared with the class. Each part of the WebQuest serves a purpose.
It helps to have each part documented either online in a WebQuesting Web
page or in a printed document that is distributed to students.
Its parts are as follows:
Introduction - This is the area where you
introduce students to the topic. Try to avoid dryly reciting facts about
the content and instead strategically pique their interests without giving
too much away. You need to draw students in while orienting them to the
Many scientists now agree that global warming
exists, but few agree on how quickly it is occurring or what impact
it will ultimately have on Earth. Like a scenario from Superman, will it wreak complete and utter
havoc on the environment, or will it simply allow us to experience
less harsh winters and slightly warmer summers? Some economists feel
limiting the industries that contribute to global warming will harm
the economy. In this WebQuest you will need to find out what causes
global warming. Can you find evidence to prove that it is getting warmer?
Question/Task - The task includes the overarching question you
are posing to students. You should specify the end product you expect
from the WebQuest. If you want students to formulate an opinion based
on collected facts, clearly describe how that information will arrive
on your desk (or email In Box). Describe to students precisely what you
want and in what format they should give it to you.
You are an advisor to the president on environmental issues. The president
is being pressured to sign the Kyoto Accord to limit global warming.
You will need to prepare a report advising him on what he should do
about it, if anything.
Process - Give students sequential procedures for completing the task.
Most likely this will be a multi-tiered process containing several phases
of process and product. Every step should be identified here, including
breaking down into groups, student roles, researching, writing, etc. In
each phase, probe students with questions that push them on to the next
skill level. See Bloom's
Taxonomy for an excellent breakdown of skill levels.
Resources - Provide a list of Web addresses (URLs) for students
to use in their webquesting activities. Rather than spending precious
time looking for Web sites that contain pertinent information, students
are directed to the sites you've preselected. Some WebQuests now include
the URLs within the process section. This is also a good idea because
you can contextualize their use. It could also be helpful to create a
separate page on which students can easily find the URLs.
Evaluation - Describe to your students what you expect them to
learn and do, and how they can expect to be evaluated. If you are using
a rubric, display it to your students here. A well-designed rubric helps
make your expectations of learning outcomes transparent.
Conclusion - Summarize what you think students should have learned
in the WebQuest. You can offer suggestions for extending learning here
and make connections to other disciplines. Depending on the amount of
time you have, you may want students to write a reflection about what
Think (and Surf) Before You Jump
Spend some time brainstorming ideas for your WebQuest. Surf the Web, gather
resources, and jot down ideas for the focus of your WebQuest before committing
to an idea. Be certain you have a deep enough question and available Web
resources to sustain your WebQuest.
Complex issues and open-ended questions lend themselves particularly well
to WebQuests because they allow the student to go beyond fact-finding
to an analysis of issues or events. Make the focus of your WebQuest task
real. Ask a question that is pertinent beyond the school walls.
Focus on goals
Write your objectives for the WebQuest. Most WebQuests are designed to
take students to higher levels of thinking. Choose the content that must
be mastered and the thinking skills to be engaged. As you research and
plan the Quest, refer back to the objectives to make sure students will
be focused on the required learning.
Create Clear Evaluation Rubrics
Using a rubric focuses attention on each part of the WebQuest. Communicate
clear evaluation guidelines for student evaluation. A sample rubric can
be found at The
WebQuests are clearly finding a place in the classroom alongside textbooks
and paper and pencil. They provide an effective framework for you to create
an original Web project that is both dynamic and engaging. Be a good Netizen
and share your best WebQuests with others.
For the slightly less convinced or courageous, a
well-established base of teacher-created WebQuests is continually growing
and available free on the Internet. Take the time to explore the WebQuest
details before using it in your classroom.
Read More About It
Learning with the World
An excellent primer on the pros and cons of the Web, this essay attempts
to first dispel some commonly held beliefs about the Web and then goes
on to unabashedly extol its many virtues beneficial to the classroom.
Explore the entire site to read Tom March's many useful insights into
the WebQuesting process.
The WebQuest Page
This is the original WebQuest site from San Diego State University. Here
you will find many resources dedicated to WebQuests, along with hundreds
of examples of WebQuests you can use or adapt for most subject areas and