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 Speaks So Others Can Understand 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.

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, including a simple learning list that helps students identify what they already know and what they need to learn. 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 ESL class held at a central distribution plant for a factory that makes furniture. The class takes place on Fridays between shifts and on Saturday mornings. Visitors from the local furniture stores often come to the plant to see how the furniture is produced. Usually a shift supervisor takes them on the tour but recently he has often been out sick and members of the class have had to take on this job. They asked Klaus, their teacher, if they could practice some of the language they need in class. After discussing the problem a bit, they decided to use the Speak So Others Can Understand Standard to work how to give a tour of their factory (Steps 1 and 2).

Since they were already well into the semester, this teacher already knew, based on previous activities, that most of the students would be working toward a Level 4 benchmark on the standard with a few working toward Level 3. She would have to tailor additional activities for the two students who were working on Level 5. She began by looking at the expectations for Performance Level 4. It was clear that to perform this task at Level 4 students would need a range of vocabulary related to the work at the factory. They would need to be able to use a variety of tenses and sentence types as well as use a range of strategies to monitor whether persons touring the factory understood them. At this level, however, they might still rely on some kind of guide or model to help them.

In order to gain additional information about students' prior knowledge related to this task, Klaus customized the Learning List described in Step 2 of the EFF Teaching and Learning Toolkit. He asked his students to tell him what they already knew about how to give a tour of the factory and how to describe the workings of the factory in English. He and his students used what they learned from these assessments to fine-tune their learning plan for this activity.

Learning List
Standard: Speak So Others Can Undertsand
Learning List Goal: To give a tour of the factory
What do we already know?
What else do we need to know?
Names of most equipment How to describe what workers at other stations do
How to describe the work we each do How to make visitors feel welcome and comfortable
How to greet people What to do if visitors don't understand what we say
How to introduce ourselves What to do if we don't have an answer
How to tell someone when we don't understand How to describe the history of our factory

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