Assessing task difficulty

Bloom's taxonomy (Knowledge > Comprehension > Application > Analysis > Synthesis) provides a useful way of determining whether a task is demanding or undemanding. So activities which fall within the category of Knowledge - such as collecting, naming, showing etc. - will clearly be less demanding than Analysis activities such as comparing, explaining and inferring.

The degree to which a task is context-embedded depends on the number of channels of information available to the student. So a student who listens to a news report on the radio has only one channel of information - this is a context-reduced learning experience. Compare this with the student who reads a report about the same event in a newspaper article which contains photographs and diagrams. The student can read at her own speed and has access to a dictionary. If she can also ask another student or her parents to explain parts of the text, then she has many channels of information available to her. This is clearly a context-embedded activity and as a result is much more manageable.

It is difficult to see the value of any tasks that are cognitively undemanding and context-reduced. Copying a list of the kings and queens of England from a textbook to an exercise book is an example of such an activity. It is sometimes called busy work.

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