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 Read with Understanding 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, select standards to work on, and interpret or adapt the language in the standards. The Supports section of the toolkit has tips for working with more than one standard during a single activity.

Once students have selected a standard 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, let's consider an example from the classroom. This example will describe an activity developed at an evening adult basic education class. Within the class, one small group of students currently has entry level jobs in the health field but would like eventually to move into higher skilled, higher wage jobs. They selected as one of their goals finding out more about better paying jobs in the health field and decided to work on this goal using the Read With Understanding Standard (Steps 1 and 2).

Since the teacher has been working with this class for some time, she knows that the students in this small group are at about the same level. All are working toward RWU Performance Level 3. They are learning to decode and recognize words in short to medium length continuous text by drawing on content knowledge and oral vocabulary, breaking words into parts, applying pronunciation rules, and adjusting reading pace. They can read text with common high-interest content knowledge and related vocabulary in most cases and have begun to learn a few simple strategies such as recalling, restating, rephrasing, and explaining the content of the text. Since the students already work in hospitals and nursing homes, they have a good bit of prior knowledge of the kinds of work people do in health related field. Their teacher, Laura, has found a "jobs box" that has short two to three paragraph descriptions of a wide variety of health-related jobs written on cards. The text is simple and each card covers a similar set of topics such as a description of the job, the skills it draws upon, the education required, and a salary range.

To introduce and work on this activity Laura used the Read With Understanding Guide found in the Tools section of the teaching and learning toolkit. As part of Step 2 (assessing prior knowledge) she asked students to think about these questions: "What is your general purpose in reading the cards?" and "What are some specific things you want to get out of this reading?" This helped her to gain more information about the prior knowledge and purposes for reading of her students before they selected cards. She used this to help her work with students to plan the activity described in the Planning Guide.

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