About this Masterclass

In recent years, there has been a steady shift of attention towards more active forms of student learning in higher education: notably, towards collaborative tasks in which small groups of students work together to solve problems and develop team working, organisational and communication skills. The growth of interest in such forms of learning is having an impact on designs and demand for educational infrastructure: new learning spaces and online tools, for example. In parallel, we can see a broadening of conceptions of university teaching, from teaching as telling to teaching as facilitation and teaching as design.

In this talk, I want to argue for the importance of a distinction between tasks and activities. The terms themselves don’t matter much, but the distinction does. I use the term ‘task’ to mean ‘the prescribed work’ (what the teacher sets for the students to do) and ‘activity’ to mean what the students actually do. Tasks can be designed, activities can’t: they emerge as rather complicated entanglements of ‘doings, sayings and relatings’, involving meshworks of people and things. I will illustrate the argument with some findings from recent research on how teachers design tasks and what happens when students interpret task designs. By drawing connections with earlier research on university student learning, I will also show that the need for a task: activity distinction has been clear for some time. And I will close, and invite discussion, by claiming that a number of important areas of educational practice proceed as if, to all intents and purposes, students do what they are told.

Light refreshments will be served.


Prof Peter Goodyear

Professor Peter Goodyear

Professor of Education, ARC Laureate Fellow and Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow, The University of Sydney
ITaLI Visiting Fellow 2019

Peter’s research interests include design for learning, networked learning, complex learning spaces, the nature of professional knowledge and professional education. View Peter's profile

Peter will be at UQ from 5–7 November and 2–5 December 2019. If you would like to make an appointment with him, please email Jennifer Morahan.



Learning Innovation Building (17), St Lucia campus