The 30-second briefing: What is the TASC approach?

The TASC approach is more than just another name for group work, as Sarah Wright explains in the latest installment of her series about educational ideas and theory

Sarah Wright

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What is the TASC approach to learning?

“TASC” stands for “thinking actively in a social context”. The approach was developed by Belle Wallace in the 1980s as a way to develop thinking and problem-solving skills in students.

How does it work?

Wallace presents her framework in the form of a wheel, where each section of the wheel represents a different opportunity to revise and develop thinking skills. 

Working in groups, students make their way clockwise around the wheel, moving through the stages, which range from “identifying” and “deciding” to “implementing” and “learning from experience”.

Wallace was clear that the focus is on the complexity of thinking and on guiding learners to develop their skills.

So, the children direct the learning themselves?  

Essentially, yes. Wallace has grouped the stages of the group-work process to give a more robust strategy that the learners lead themselves.

It’s the students’ responsibility to work through the stages after you’ve introduced the problem or learning context, but there is a strong framework for learners to follow.

What about the research? Is there much to back this up?

TASC is an eclectic approach that draws on many of the “big hitter” principles in education. It borrows from philosophy for children and certainly has a constructivist feel.

While there are case studies that support the method and a great deal of neuroscience has been included in developing the approach, its impact remains to be seen.

Should I be trying this?

If you feel that either you or your learners need support in critical thinking or problem-solving, then this approach will walk you through the process nicely. It is the equivalent of adding stabilisers to your problem-solving bike, before you’re ready to whip them off and try something more complex or less rigid.

Will it have an impact in my classroom?

That depends on you and your children. It provides a sound and well-thought-out structure to scaffold learning, particularly if problem solving is something that you feel you need to develop. However, many of us will do this naturally as part of our teaching.

Where can I find out more?

Check out the TASC website and have a look at the case and impact studies produced by schools, such as this one.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1

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