Web Quests: Definitions and Foundations
Since the mid 1990s, educators have looked for ways to make effective use of the vast information resources available on the Web. Rather than low-level scavenger-hunt types of activities, teachers have sought ways to promote higher-order thinking through authentic assignments that emphasized inquiry-based learning.
Use this page to examine the definition and history of the WebQuest concept, as well as the theoretical foundations.
Web Quest Definition and History
Bernie Dodge, a Professor of Education at San Diego State University, coined the term “WebQuest” in 1995 to describe an inquiry-based activity that involves students in using web-based resources and tools to transform their learning into meaningful understandings and real-world projects. Rather than spending substantial time using search tools, most or all of the information used by learners is found on pre-selected websites. Students can then focus on using web-based information to analyze, synthesis, and evaluate information to address high-level questions.
Transformational Learning. Beyond traditional term papers and tests, WebQuests require students to connect their understanding of information to meaningful situations through original products for authentic audiences. The most effective WebQuest communication products provide students with opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and alternative perspectives.
Short Term and Long Term WebQuests. Dodge distinguishes between short-term and long-term WebQuests. The goal of a short-term WebQuest is knowledge acquisition and integration, while in a long-term WebQuest learners analyze and transform knowledge into something that is understandable by others.
WebQuest Attributes. Dodge’s model is similar to other information inquiry models. Critical attributes of a WebQuest include:
- an introduction that sets the stage of the activity
- a doable, interesting task
- a set of information resources
- a clear process
- guidance and organizational frameworks
- a conclusion that provides reflection and closure.
Non-critical attributes included group activities, motivational elements, and interdisciplinary approaches.
Three Domains. Dodge identified three domains to assist in developing web-enhanced, information-rich learning environments: inputs (i.e., articles, resources, experts and other information sources), transformations (i.e., high-level activities such as analysis, synthesis, problem solving and decision-making), and outputs (i.e., products such as presentations, reports, and web publishing). He points out that students need scaffolding in each of these domains such as quality resource links, compelling problems, and production templates to assist in building understandings.
WebQuest Theoretical Foundations
WebQuests are a learner-centered, project-based approach to teaching, learning, and information inquiry drawing on a variety of theories that include the following areas (Lamb & Teclehaimanot, 2005):
- constructivist philosophy
- critical and creative thinking, questioning, understanding, and transformational learning
- authenticity, meaningfulness, and situated learning environments
- cooperative learning
- motivation, challenge and engaged learning
Learn more about inquiry-based approaches to learning at Virtual Inquiry.
Tom March created the first WebQuests for the K-12 environment while working with Bernie Dodge and San Diego State University. His well-known, early WebQuests included Searching for China, Look Who’s Footing the Bill!, Ewe 2, and Tuskegee Tragedy. March’s websites BestWebQuests.com and Ozline.com contain resources to assist educators in using and developing web-based materials. He has found that well-designed WebQuests:
- promote dependable instructional practices
- combine research-supported theories
- make effective use of essential Internet resources
- produce open-ended questions
- offer authentic tasks
- motivate students
- allow students to develop expertise in a subject from within a situated learning environment
- offer opportunities for transformative group work.
WebQuest Evaluation and Use
Why reinvent the wheel? Start by exploring the WebQuests that others have created. You may find a WebQuest that fits your needs.
Examine WebQuest Elements
WebQuests all share the same basic elements. These include an introduction, task, information resources, processes, learning advice, and evaluation.
Read Building Blocks of a WebQuest. This web project provides an overview of each element of a WebQuest including introduction, task, process, evaluation, conclusion, and teacher page.
Examine the following WebQuest examples:
- Radio Days
- In Another Man’s Shoes: Huckleberry Finn. Also, read the teacher’s materials.
- The Last Spin by Ed McBain
- Plan the Perfect Community. Notice that it’s a Word document.
- Walk Two Moons. Notice that it’s a Word document.
Locate the elements of a WebQuest using a couple of the links below at your grade level.
How are the layouts alike and different. Do they all have the same elements? How are they alike and different? Which do you think are most important?
Primary Grades (PreK-3)
- An Insect’s Perspective for Grade 2
- Arthur’s Tooth for Grade 1
- Chrysanthemum: What’s in a Name for Grade K-2
- Find Frog and Toad for Grade 2
- Frog Finds His Family for Kindergarten
- Miss Spider’s Tea Party for Kindergarten
- Just Winging It for K-2
- Meeting in the Mitten for Kindergarten
- Snakes Alive for Grade 1
- Stellaluna for Grade 2-3
Intermediate Grades (3-6)
- A Forest Forever for Grade 5
- Fairy Tale Court/The True Story of the Three Little Pigs for Grade 3
- Paper or Plastics: WebQuest on Recycling for Grade 3
- The Ocean is in Trouble! for Science 4-6
- A Tale to be Told for Grade 5
- Westward Ho for Grades 3-5
Middle School (6-9)
- And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: WebQuest on Propaganda for Grade 8
- Edgar Allan Poe: Father of Horror
- Masks for Professor Who for 6-8
- Radio Days for Middle School
- Who Should Own the Bones?
High School (9-12)
- Amistad Case: A Mock Trial for High School History
- Baby Care Demonstrations for High School
- Basque Country WebQuest for High School French/Spanish
- Bones and the Badge High School Library and Science
- Witchcraft or Witchhunt for Grade 11 Language Arts and Social Studies
College and University Level
Now that you’re familiar with the elements of a WebQuest, it’s time to begin judging the quality of a WebQuest. Just because a WebQuest contains the essential elements, doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for your classroom. Look beyond the structure and examine the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of the project. Ask yourself:
- Is it a quality project?
- Does it fit my needs?
- Is it a good use of time?
- Is it a good use of technology?
Use one of the WebQuest Rubrics listed to guide your evaluations.
A Rubric for Evaluating WebQuests by Bernie Dodge
Assessing WebQuests by Tom March
Rubric Scoring Guide for WebQuests from eMINTS
WebQuest Evaluation Form from Spartanburg
Explore WebQuests using the resources below. Look for the basic WebQuest elements. Notice how some developers have created high level thinking assignments, while others have simply created a “treasure hunt”. How does a WebQuest differ from other activities?
Locating WebQuests to Evaluate
There are thousands of WebQuests online. If you’re interested in locating a WebQuest on a particular topic, use your favorite search engine such as Google or Yahoo. Use quotation marks to narrow the search such as “earthquake webquest” or “gold rush” + “webquest”. You might also try different orders such as “tornado webquest” or “webquest tornado”. Also consider search for a general topic of grade level such as “Kindergarten webquest” or “seventh grade science webquest”.
Matrix of Examples: Top by Bernie Dodge
Do a search or use Bernie Dodge’s matrix of the top sites.
Best WebQuests by Tom March
All links are evaluated.
WebQuests by eMINTS teachers
Click on one of the following grade levels for a set of WebQuest examples and resources by grade level:
- Kindergarten through Third Grade (literature-based Grades K-2)
- Third Grade through Sixth Grade (literature-based Grades 3-6)
- Middle, High School and Higher Ed (literature-based Middle School and High School
Use the following Teacher Tap: WebQuests links for more resources:
WebQuest evaluation and selection is only half the battle. Now, it’s time to consider how this WebQuest fits into your curriculum, schedule, and classroom environment. Consider the following questions:
- What specific standards does this WebQuest address? Where in your instructional unit does the WebQuest fit? What resources (i.e., hardware, software, resources, materials, facilities) will be needed to implement this WebQuest?
- How would you introduce the project? Would you do a overview, provide background information, or distribute guides?
- How would you manage the time spent on the project? Would you print some aspects of the project? What about accessing the web pages?
- Would you use computers in your classroom or a lab? How would you schedule this? What other technologies would be needed such as Word, PowerPoint, or Internet?
- Would you organize your class into teams? If so, what’s the group goal or mission? What roles will take place within the groups? How will information be shared among groups such as jigsaws or presentations? How would group members be assessed?
- Will your class have a project headquarters? If so, will it include notebooks, clipboards, or bulletin boards? Will the software Inspiration be used for planning?
- How will the process and products be assessed? How will individuals and groups be assessed?
http://questgarden.com/ is suggested website for getting know deeper about Web quest. This one of many examples of