1, Number 4, Nov/Dec 2000
WebQuests to Promote Integrative Thinking in Conflict
Studies (page 2 of 2)
Defining Characteristics of WebQuests
were originally developed in 1995 by Bernie Dodge at San
Diego State University. They are online curriculum modules
which engage students in learning about an authentic topic
or problem. Generally, WebQuests are cooperative activities
where students assume different roles relative to an authentic
problem. For example, check out these screen
a WebQuest exploring different perspectives on the Vietnam
Internet is usually the main information resource, although
other more traditional resources, such as newspapers and
journals, can be included. The WebQuest itself provides
structure to the investigation of the topic, thereby increasing
the ability of students to successfully navigate a highly
unstructured environment such as the Web. Students then
develop a product which demonstrates their knowledge of
the problem and its potential solutions.
Support Cognitive Development
basic components of a WebQuest as described by Bernie
also suggests that modules be enhanced by wrapping motivational
elements around the basic structure. This can be done by
giving the learners a role to play (e.g., scientist, detective,
reporter), simulated personae to interact with via e-mail,
and a scenario to work within (e.g., you've been asked by
the Secretary General of the UN to brief him on what's happening
in sub-Saharan Africa this week.) He also notes that a good
WebQuest is usually highly visual, taking advantage of available
sites with lots of pictures, maps, animations, or even sounds.
These are teaching tools that keep students' interest.
introduction that sets the stage and provides some background
task that is doable and interesting.
set of information sources needed to complete the task.
Many (though not necessarily all) of the resources are
embedded in the WebQuest document itself as anchors
pointing to information on the World Wide Web. Information
sources might include web documents, experts available
via e-mail or realtime conferencing, searchable databases
on the net, and books and other documents physically
available in the learner's setting. Because pointers
to resources are included, the learner is not left to
wander through webspace completely adrift.
description of the process the learners should go through
in accomplishing the task. The process should be broken
out into clearly described steps.
guidance on how to organize the information acquired.
This can take the form of guiding questions, or directions
to complete organizational frameworks such as timelines,
concept maps, or cause-and-effect diagrams.
conclusion that brings closure to the quest, reminds
the learners about what they've learned, and perhaps
encourages them to extend the experience into other
have become increasingly popular in elementary and secondary
education, and the growing list of freely
posted examples is truly impressive. The range
of tasks that students are asked to accomplish as part
of their learning activities is also quite broad. Eleven
different general categories of tasks have been identified,
can help students develop higher level cognitive skills
in an engaging way. Tom March, one of the early developers
of the WebQuest model and a colleague of Dodge, describes
some of the inherent learning advantages of the WebQuest
model. He notes,
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, etc.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 impossible.
(Tom March, from Why
Experimental Conflict Theory WebQuest
this past Summer, after reading through some of the support
materials provided below, I decided to jump in and develop
a WebQuest for my Roots of Social Conflict course.
The graduate-level course is part of the Master of Arts
in Dispute Resolution program at Wayne State University.
The course meets once a week for 3-hours for 15 weeks. It
is offered early in our program's sequence of courses and
is intended to introduce students to various theories regarding
the causes of social conflict and conflict escalation. The
theories are presented using a combination of readings from
three textbooks and in-class lectures. Students are asked
to apply these ideas to short case studies presented in
class via video clips or newspaper and magazine articles,
and by writing brief reflection papers.
The WebQuest I eventually developed is called Standoff
at Oka, and is based on a 78-day standoff in 1990 between
Mohawk Indians and army and law enforcement officials over
the proposed expansion of a golf course in a small community
not far from Montreal, Canada. It is clearly the most extended
and elaborate case study of the course, and was designed
to help reinforce and extend previous learning. I picked
the case based on prior familiarity with the dispute, the
richness and multiple perspectives reflected in it, and
the availability of appropriate online resources. 1990 happened
to be the first year that the cell phone was widely used
by reporters, and also the first year that CBC Newsworld
broadcast 24-hour news coverage. This led to a very well
documented conflict. And the 10-year anniversary of the
dispute in July of this year resulted in an even richer
set of available online resources as various news outlets
posted retrospective pieces on the web, including radio
and television clips.
worked in groups of 4-5, with each group being assigned
a different general theoretical perspective. Within each
group students took on different roles based on the various
parties' perspectives. I would have prefered smaller groups
of 3-4, but the class size (23 students) and available presentation
time and other factors dicated the larger group size. Three
full class sessions were held in a computer lab, so that
student groups could accomplish much of their shared work
during class time, reducing the scheduling challenges associated
with getting working graduate students together outside
of class. At the end of the month-long process, each group
presented 25-30 minute powerpoint presentations analyzing
the case from their assigned theoretical perspectives.
have to say that the quality and creativity of the student
presentations, which occurred just last week, was quite
good, and that I've been pleased with the experience thus
far. Listening in as students worked on the activities suggests
that a lot of useful learning and integration of knowledge
was occurring. I invite you to have
a look for yourself at the WebQuest, with the caveat
that it is still in it's first draft. As a class, we still
need to debrief regarding the experience, which may lead
to some changes or simplifications in the structure or the
Examples of Conflict Studies WebQuests
Field Needs More Conflict Studies WebQuests
relative lack of college-level WebQuests in general, and
conflict-related projects in particular, suggests that there
is plenty of opportunity for creativity in this area. WebQuests
may be one of the best ways yet developed (aside from actual
internships, of course) for conflict intervenors and scholars-in-training
to hone their skills and develop higher order thinking abilities.
And conflicts are a great topic for a WebQuest because they
tend to be inherently interesting. They usually involve
multiple perspectives and they invite further investigation
and trainers who choose to create new WebQuest teaching
tools will almost certainly enhance their students' learning
experience. And by sharing their new tools they may at the
same time benefit the field as a whole. If you're intrigued
by the idea, there are plenty of tools to help you quickly
get started. Why not give it a try?...
center of gravity for the WebQuest world is clearly the
maintained by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University.
Dodge provides visitors to his site with a broad range of
training and support materials, including links to materials
prepared for full summer workshops on the subject. The site
includes free WebQuest
page design templates that can greatly speed up your
design time. I used one and found it quite helpful.
is a very nice fill-in-the-blank interactive Website sponsored
by Pacific Bell that guides you through picking a topic,
searching the Web, gathering good Internet sites, and turning
Web resources into learning activities that can include
WebQuests, or simpler projects such as scavenger hunts or
hotlists. Keeping track of the webpages that you find in
the planning and design phase of the work can be quite daunting,
and this site provides an easy way to manage your info bank.
The title is based on the idea that the site helps combine
the "filaments" of the Web with a learner's "mentality".
Support is built-in through "Mentality Tips" that
guide you along the way to creating a Web-based activity
you can then share with others even if you don't know anything
about HTML or Web servers.
is a subscription-based Website (only $25/year) created
by Tom March, Dodge's former colleague from San Diego State
University. Similar to, but more robust than Filamentality,
Web-and-Flow is also a fill-in-the-blanks Web site that
guides you through creating your own web-based activities
for learners. Creator March humbly describes it as some
combination of an interactive design site, a just-in-time
workshop, an interactive book, an expert system, an HTML
editor, a Web host, and a learning community. A Guided Tour
is available to help you get a better feel for what's available.
is the new Hewlett-funded web portal for conflict resolution
information retrieval. As the site matures and gets more
fully loaded with content it should prove extremely helpful
in locating online resources to use in your WebQuest design
work. If you haven't tried it out yet, you should have a
go. It's full of good stuff!
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
All rights reserved.