Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 Reasons to Use Performance Tasks

An upcoming trend in the teaching world is using Performance Tasks.  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium defines Performance Tasks as response items that "measure a student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple standards—a key component of college and career readiness."  I am a firm believer in these Performance Tasks and I believe they should be implemented into classrooms worldwide when both practicing and testing skills.  I have also been doing a lot of research about the topic and have compiled my "5 Reasons to Use Performance Tasks" in the classroom.

So let's begin...

1. Performance tasks provide real-world application of skills.  We have all heard the math problem involving cantaloupes...
This cartoon is hilarious to me because it is not true life.  There is a very slim chance that our students will someday have to buy 60 cantaloupes in the real-world; yet, as educators, we have all seen problems like these.  Performance tasks are essential in the classroom because they are authentic.  There is often more than one answer and they involve creativity.  Students actively participate in problem solving activities rather than just selecting A, B, C, or D.  Doing well on a multiple choice test does not mean the student can use this information in the real-world.  Performance tasks allow the students to hone in on application of their knowledge.  There is no more teaching to the test; there is teaching to the real-world.

2. Performance tasks engage the students.  When I started implementing performance tasks last year, I was unsure on how the students were going to react because, let's face it, they are challenging.  But I was a little surprised when my students did not seem to notice the difficulty because it was meaningful to them.  They were engaged with what they were doing and invested in completing the task.  When it was time to complete a new performance task, I actually got shout-out, "YESES!" and cheers!  I knew immediately, I was doing something right.  I had hooked the students and they were taking ownership of their learning.

3. Performance tasks target the Standards for Mathematical Practices.
Primarily, performance tasks have a heavy emphasis on application of math skills.  I know my students can not sit and listen to me all day.  They need to "DO."  Students must make sense of problems and persevere in solving them which enables the students to become better critical thinkers.  When students must "show their thinking," higher order thinking is involved.

4. Performance tasks integrate and make connections across curriculum.  Every performance task that I use in the classroom has more than just a math component.  Writing is always incorporated in some way and very frequently science and social studies topics are incorporated as well.  In this way, students must transfer knowledge of skills across the domains and see the relationships with what they are learning in the classroom.  This is a complex process that develops students skills.

5. Performance tasks inform the teacher.  I believe knowing whether a student knows it or not is not enough.  I want to know if the students can use what they know.  I want to know what my students have really internalized.  Using performance tasks allow me to do this because students must apply their learning.  I like that performance tasks can also facilitate student learning while assessing.

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I do believe that performance tasks are a key component of college and career readiness.  Obviously, I believe it is very necessary to implement performance tasks at the elementary level.  So, how do we do it?  Well, I have developed a set of performance tasks to use throughout the school year.  I encourage you to check them out.  It might be a great place to start.




If you are using performance tasks in the classroom or are thinking about it, I would love to hear from you!

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