The Power of the ‘Naïve Task’


Extract from Issue#17 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

How One Teaching Expert Activates Students’ Curiosity

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a weekly newsletter that is free to subscribe: Academe. This article was published on June 7, 2018, reporting on a session from the Designing Effective Teaching conference. The conference link is provided as you may be interested in the handouts from some of the papers presented.

Rather than using activities for students to demonstrate their learning, the premise behind the naïve task is to get students thinking ahead of the topic they will be learning.

“Such activities ask students to attempt disciplinary thinking using only their pre-existing knowledge … Naïveté is a useful stage of learning, great for fostering the kind of curiosity that gets students excited about a discipline … Naïve tasks require students to make a decision about a real problem, then reflect on and discuss their reasoning. They stretch students by asking them to predict a result, rather than simply describe one that’s laid out in front of them”.

This short article presents examples that were used in the conference session to demonstrate the techniques. Naïve tasks can be utilised in peer-to-peer discussions to challenge assumptions and promote risk-taking for students in a low-stakes activity. They promote active student engagement.

This 2014 article provides definitions, design and sequencing suggestions for naïve tasks and a list of examples that can be used in different disciplines:

  1. Roberson, B., & Franchini, B. (2014). Effective Task Design for the TBL Classroom. Journal On Excellence In College Teaching, 25(3/4), 275-302. (see pp. 281-284)