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Powerful Task Design

Powerful Task Design
Rigorous and Engaging Tasks to Level Up Instruction

First Edition
Additional resources:

March 2018 | 216 pages | Corwin

How can educators use technology to increase students’ engagement in activities essential to rigorous learning? What are the most effective tools for analyzing, designing, and refining those tasks of learning? And finally, how can we increase the cognitive rigor and thoughtful integration of technology into learning tasks, in order to better prepare students for college and beyond?

In Powerful Task Design, these questions and more will be answered, as you get to know the Powerful Task Rubric for Designing Student Work. Applicable for educators across all disciplines and grade levels, you’ll use the tool to analyze, design, and refine cognitively engaging tasks of learning. This guide will help you

  • Explore and use the Powerful Task Rubric piece-by-piece in an easily digestible format to help you delve into the tool’s design components.
  • Use technology to complete interactive tasks, and understand first-hand how technology is a critical design component in student task design that brings about more profound and relevant learning.
  • Identify opportunities for creating powerful tasks in the areas of engagement, academic strategies, questions, and cognition.
  • Supplement your task design arsenal with tools like the Diagnostic Instrument to Analyze Learning (DIAL).

This must-have resource brings together the research and strategies educators need to design engaging, powerful learning tasks. Student performance has a direct correlation to the power of the learning task - this book will help you positively impact both. 

About the Authors
Introduction: The Power of the Task
1. The Work of School
A Task Is a Task

Task Predicts Performance

The Design Components of a Task

Technology in a Working Model, or When Terri Met Sally (Ahem, John)

The Powerful Task Rubric for Designing Student Work

2. Analyzing Learning With the Powerful Task Rubric
One Content, Five Tasks

Where Was the Power?

3. The Power of Engagement
The Qualities of Engagement

Interaction as Engagement

A Task Is Powered Up

4. The Power of Academic Strategies
It Starts on the Playground

Strategies of Personal Response

Identifying Similarities and Differences

Summarizing and Note-Making

Note-Taking Becomes Note-Making

Reflection in Note-Making

Nonlinguistic Representations

Generating and Testing Hypotheses

Reflection and Closure

5. The Power of the Question
Where Does a Question Come From?


Where Do Teacher Questions Come From?

How to Open a Question

Technology and Questions

6. Engaged in What? The Power of Cognition
Cognitive Demand

Learning Through Accepting Meaning

Thinking and Making Meaning

Making Meaning on Top of Meaning

Sliding Across the Cognitive Continua: A Hierarchy, Not a Sequence

Math Cognition and the Task Rubric

Encoding and Memory

7. Power Up: Using the Diagnostic Instrument to Analyze Learning
The Diagnostic Instrument to Analyze Learning

Premises and Research Behind the DIAL

Using the DIAL

Three DIAL Implementations

Tips for the Tool

8. Putting It All Together
Final Thoughts


“An easy-to-follow tool for educators wishing to reflect on the rigor of their classroom tasks with excellent tips to take learning to the next level!”

Clint Heitz, Instructional Coach
Bettendorf Community School District, Bettendorf, IA

"It is painfully obvious that something needs to be done to do more than simply engage students; we need to cognitively engage them and this book gives you the tools with which to do just that. Everything is here for you to make those changes."

Melody (Dani) Aldrich, High School English Teacher
Casa Grande Union High School, Casa Grande, AZ

"Finally! A resource that focuses first on the TASK (what it is we are asking of our students) and then the RESOURCES (what technology is at our disposal to accomplish the task?). For decades now, the process has been backwards and the focus has become bells-and-whistle-technology that is mistaken for authentic engagement. This book will give tangible tools for the teacher toolbox while keeping the eye on the rigor prize for students."

Matthew Constant, Chief Academic Officer
Owensboro Public Schools, Owensboro, KY

“With this collaboration, John's expertise with designing engaging and rigorous student tasks is combined with Terri's vast knowledge of effective technology use in the classroom.  Both John and Terri have worked with our district's teachers and administrators and have helped bring about increased teacher effectiveness.  This book is the perfect next step resource for our district's continuous improvement journey as well as for any educator ready to effectively take their student task design practices to the next level and meaningfully engage today's 'techie" student.'"

Kelli Bush, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning
Elizaethtown Independent Schools, Elizabethtown, KY

 “As educators we are on a continuous journey to stretch and grow to our fullest potential and we all have a ‘ceiling’ of effectiveness. The interactive approach of #Powerful Task Design will serve as a valuable tool for educators as the stretch and growth toward a higher ceiling.”

Kellianne Wilson, Secondary Instructional Supervisor
Meade County Schools, KY

"Are you grappling with how to create an instructional task that both challenges and engages? Do you continue to struggle with issues related to effective integration of technology into lesson designs? Are you seeking to understand how rigor and engagement can move beyond overused and empty clichés? Explore these and other essential questions in this highly practical, well-researched book that offers practitioner-friendly tools brought to life by a treasure-trove of examples across the content areas of k-12 classrooms. Inviting reflection and personal response at strategic points, the authors skillfully integrate video and other technology with written text to create a book that exhibits the design principles they propose. Powerful Task Design is a must-read for individual educators and a practical guide for PLCs."

Jackie A. Walsh, Author and Consultant
Montgomery, AL

"Powerful Task Design will help you rethink how to get the full value from the technology tools you have available in your classroom. I found John and Terri’s work to be both practical and transformative. Teachers will come back to this book time and time again as we are challenged to find ways to push thinking, rigor and engagement to a higher level for your students."

Amy Berry, National Board Certified Teacher, Coordinator for Student Services
Meade County Schools, KY

"Antonetti and Stice push educators to create well-designed tasks that fully engage students and create powerful results. We want the students to learn first and then utilize technology tools to make learning more meaningful.  Combining Antonetti’s brilliant work with his engagement cube and Stice’s technology genius is 'just mind-blowing.'"

Allen Martin, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher
Bowling Green Independent Schools, KY

"Antonetti and Stice once again provide outstanding leadership, research, and guidance through an ever expanding and vital conversation on learning design. This book further shifts the conversation from technology to learning, from simply rehashing techno-centric approaches, to ready-to-implement rich learning experiences for students further empowered through digital tools and resources.    


In this book, you'll discover creative solutions to interesting digital instructional design challenges from real classrooms and real students. These best practice models will help any teacher, new or experienced, formulate a blueprint for digital learning experience design - with a tremendous emphasis on learning and cognitive engagement. I especially love the connections made in Chapter 5 with technology and questions. Through this book, John and Terri demonstrate that they are two highly connected teachers who 'get it.'"

Dr. Marty Park, Chief Digital Officer for the Office of Education Technology, Kentucky Department of Education
Kentucky Department of Education

"John and Terri turn the bubble-sheet culture on its head – offering readers a path for implementing rigorous and engaging tasks that promote meaning making and sustained learning.  Through Powerful Task Design, they provide a way of thinking about our main goal in the classroom – creating rigorous and engaging tasks that power up learning.  I love this book!  The cognitive demand, thinking strategies, and engaging qualities of this book WILL change the way I interact with my own learners…and my two small children."

John Almarode, Author, Visible Learning for Science and From Snorkelers to Scuba Divers
Waynesboro, VA
Key features


    • The Powerful Task Rubric, a practical guide for lesson planning to ensure rigorous cognitive engagement
    • Annotated examples of  teacher lesson plans and student work, showing how to intentionally design for more cognitive engagement
    • Strategies in each chapter, showing teachers how to "level up" the rigor in classroom tasks
    • Readers will complete tasks at each level of the Rubric as well, to experience the difference between each level

For instructors

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