Using the Performance Continuum Within the Teaching and Learning Cycle

The EFF Teaching and Learning Toolkit http://eff.cls.utk.edu/toolkit describes how practitioners can use the EFF teaching and learning cycle to plan and carry out instruction based on the EFF Standards. This section suggests key points within the teaching and learning cycle where teachers can use the performance continuum to guide planning and assessment based on the Listen Actively Standard.

Before Instruction: Assessing Prior Knowledge

In Steps 1 and 2 of the EFF Teaching and Learning Cycle, teachers and learners determine individual and then group goals and purposes and identify the standard that will help the group to achieve a shared goal. The Tools section of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit contains a number of tools and worksheets to help teachers work with students to determine their goals and select standards to work on. Many of these are tailored to working with ESL learners. There are also simple tools for how to interpret or adapt the language in the standards for limited English speakers. The Supports section of the toolkit also has tips for working with more than one standard during a single activity. Although for the purpose of describing how to use the performance continuum we are addressing only the standard Listen Actively in many cases teachers may want to work on speaking activities simultaneously with listening-related activities.

Once students have selected a standard or standards to work on teachers need to determine students’ prior knowledge in relationship to the standard. Teachers also need to assess any subject area or content knowledge students have or need to have to accomplish their goal. The performance continuum can be an important tool at this stage. Below are some tips for using the performance continuum to assess prior knowledge.

Using the Performance Continuum to Assess Prior Knowledge

  1. Look over the performance continuum to familiarize yourself with what is required for proficient performance at each level.
  2. Review what you already know about your students, based on intake assessments you or your program may have conducted, standardized test data, student portfolios, and previous student work. Determine the performance levels that appear to best reflect your students’ proficiency levels.
  3. Gather additional information you need by asking students to demonstrate and/or reflect on what they already know. Step 2 of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit has several tools you can use. Tailor the questions you ask to fine-tune your understanding of the performance levels of your students.

In order to think about how the performance continuum can be used with the teaching and learning cycle, consider this example from the classroom. This example describes an activity developed at an evening adult ESOL class. Most of the students, who are immigrants from a wide variety of countries, are at the intermediate level. Earlier in the semester they practiced having casual conversations with co-workers. Many have tried out their new skills at work but have found that, although they can start a conversation, they have a hard time keeping a conversation going past a single question and response sequence.

Since Monika, their teacher, had been working with this group of students for a while, she knew that most of them were working toward Performance Level 2. At this level they did best with conversations that addressed familiar topics, were fairly structured, had well defined purposes, and allowed for plenty of opportunities for repetition, rewording and clarification. As they went through Steps 1 and 2 of the cycle they decided to work on this goal using the Listen Actively Standard. Monika suggested that they focus on the topic of asking co-workers about their weekends and the class agreed.

To gather more information about students’ prior knowledge related to this task, Monika customized the Learning List described in Step 2 of the EFF Teaching and Learning Toolkit. She asked her students to tell her what they already knew about having casual conversations with co-workers and what they wanted to learn.

Learning List
Standard: Listen Actively
Learning List Goal: Understand and respond to conversations with co-workers about their weekends
What do we already know? What else do we need to know?
How to say hello.

How to ask “How was your weekend?”

How to tell what we did (a little).

How to ask more questions.

How to talk more.

How to show we understand.

How to show we like what they say –we like them.

How to learn more about our co-workers.

How to tell more about us.

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