While students are in the classroom, we push them to acquire the knowledge in the standards, so they will be ready for not only the state and national testing that comes towards the end of the year, but to prepare them for the next level of education. During this time we have in the classroom with them, we push content knowledge, new skills, and application of the new learning. Performance Tasks provide meaningful strategies for communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, research and information fluency, and creativity and innovation…all integrated into an engaging lesson.
I have been in classrooms where there are reluctant learners, and seen those same students fully engaged in a Performance Task. In a PT they may watch several videos, research the web, read pertinent articles and even create and take tests. It seems that the integration of technology along with allowing them to collaborate on assignments and projects, is just the ticket for these, along with most of the student population in your school. Let’s face it, they are social beings, so why not use that to our advantage…and theirs. Start with a typically unmotivated or reluctant learner…toss in a highly motivated student that is a regimented worker, along with a free-spirited creative kid, and you end up with some pretty exciting learning happening before your very eyes. And the creative presentations they come up with are astounding.
We know that some students would like to be “spoon fed” with the how’s and where’s and when’s of an assignment. There is another group of students that you just have to give the task once, and watch them go to work. The Performance Task hits on all points of both these kinds of learners. What we have to determine as instructors is when to press a little more on the gas, when to pump the brakes, and when to get out of the highway and let them drive.
Performance Tasks help strike a balance between a traditional fact delivery and the more non-traditional discovery method. Of course, both are valuable and both require guidance, but the discovery method employed by a Performance Task tends to differentiate the learning while connecting the dots with multiple strategies and multiple modalities.
Teachers don’t have to give up any of the units of study they already have planned, but instead, utilize the students’ prior knowledge and mesh it with a real-world, authentic task…and give them an end project to work toward that satisfies standard mastery. Real-world tasks are after all, based in curriculum…allowing teachers to help design what works for best for them…and making the whole experience more meaningful for students.
Performance Tasks use prior skills and knowledge to introduce new content, enhance a unit of study or even extend the learning outside of the classroom. Students, given the opportunity, will initiate communication in real and non-real time, communicate and collaborate with learners of diverse cultural backgrounds, form collaborative teams to solve real-world problems, and create original works.
Students will use multiple resources to plan, design, and execute real-world problems, use technology to collaborate and solve, authentic problems, develop and answer open-ended questions using higher order thinking skills.
Students will research to find and select appropriate digital tools to assemble, evaluate, and utilize information…then use that information to accomplish real-world tasks. Tasks that are now real to them!
Students will apply critical thinking, research methods, and communication tools to create original work…collaborate more effectively…and reach beyond the classroom to create original work.
Now THAT’S a meaningful performance!