My research has convinced me that Webquests are an
The Webquest "vision" was developed in early 1995 at San Diego State University
(SDSU) by Professor Bernie Dodge and Professor Tom March. Perhaps the best website
on Webquests and its benefits is
authored by Tom March, called Ozline.
His website discusses the benefits of Webquests on student learning.
The following are excerpts from his website that address
the benefits of Webquest development from Tom March:
Reason #1: Student Motivation & Authenticity
When students are motivated they not only put in more effort, but
their minds are more alert and ready to make connections. WebQuests use
several strategies to increase student motivation. First, WebQuests use
a central question that honestly needs answering. When students are
asked to understand, hypothesize or problem-solve an issue that
confronts the real world, they face an authentic task, not something
that only carries meaning in a school classroom. Although you can't
count on getting a response, when students do receive feedback from
someone they didn't previously know, they join a community of learners
and have their presence, if not their contribution, validated. When
teachers choose a topic they know their students would respond to, they
add to the relevance.
The second feature of WebQuests that increase student motivation is
that students are given real resources to work with. Rather than turn to
a dated textbook, filtered encyclopedias or middle-of-the-road
magazines, with the Web students can directly access individual experts,
searchable databases, current reporting, and even fringe groups to
gather their insights.
When students take on roles within a cooperative group, they must
develop expertise on a particular aspect or perspective of the topic.
That their teammates count on them to bring back real expertise should
inspire and motivate learning.
Lastly, the answer or solution the student teams develop can be
posted, emailed or presented to real people for feedback and evaluation.
This authentic assessment also motivates students to do their best and
come up with a real group answer, not simply something to fulfill an
Reason #2: Developing Thinking Skills
One of the main (and often neglected) features of any WebQuest is
that students tackle questions that prompt higher level thinking.
Certainly, the Web can be used as a source for simple information
retrieval, but this misses its power and short-changes students. Built
into the WebQuest process are the strategies of cognitive psychology and
constructivism. First, the question posed to students can not be
answered simply by collecting and spitting back information. A WebQuest
forces students to transform information into something else: a cluster
that maps out the main issues, a comparison, a hypothesis, a solution,
In order to engage students in higher level cognition, WebQuests use
scaffolding or prompting which has been shown to facilitate more
advanced thinking. In other words, by breaking the task into meaningful
"chunks" and asking students to undertake specific sub-tasks, a WebQuest
can step them through the kind of thinking process that more expert
learners would typically use.
Lastly, constructivism suggests that when students need to understand
a more complex or sophisticated topic like those that comprise WebQuests,
it doesn't help to serve them simplified truths, boiled down examples,
or step-by-step formulas. What they need are many examples with lots of
information and opinions on the topic through which they will sift until
they have constructed an understanding that not only connects to their
own individual prior knowledge, but also builds new schema that will be
refined when students encounter the topic again in the future. Until the
Web, this kind of activity was very difficult for the average teacher to
create because collecting such a breadth of resources was next to
Reason #3: Cooperative Learning
As has already been mentioned, in WebQuests students take on roles
within a small student group and this tends to promote motivation. In
addition, because the WebQuest targets learning about large, complex or
controversial topics, it's probably not realistic to expect each student
to master all of its aspects. Thus learners divide to conquer. This is
not to say that students don't gain the overall understanding, because
this happens in a later stage of the process, but it does suggest to
learners the reality that not everyone knows everything. In fact, this
is one of the great messages that students invariably bring back from
interactions with experts whose works focus on very thin slivers of the
knowledge pie. Having students develop expertise and be appreciated for
it by their peers is built into each WebQuest. Cooperative learning
strategies are then applied to necessitate each student's input. By
running several WebQuest groups in the same class, students will also
see that different solutions were chosen by each team because of the
quality of the group members' research and argumentation skills. As
students complete more WebQuests they will become increasingly aware
that their individual work has a direct impact of the intelligence of
their group's final product.