Using the Performance Continuum Within the Teaching and Learning Cycle

The EFF Teaching and Learning 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 Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate 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 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.

*See the Supports section of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit for tips on working with more than one standard.

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 education class made up of adult basic education students at the high intermediate level. The class meets for 6 hours a week. Most of the students have daytime jobs and quite a few have children. As they discussed their work and home responsibilities, they discovered that many of them had financial concerns and they talked at length about their worries about living beyond their means. They have identified being able to develop a monthly budget as one of their group goals. As they went through Steps 1 and 2 of the cycle they decided to work on this goal using the Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate Standard (Steps 1 and 2).

Once the goal and the standard were selected, their teacher reviewed the performance continuum. Looking at the level descriptions, she compared these to what she already knew about each based on standardized test data and records of students who were enrolled in math classes the previous semester. Based on this preliminary analysis, she felt that most of the students would probably be working toward a Performance Level 3 benchmark with a few working toward Levels 2 and 4. In order to gain additional information, the teacher also customized some tools from Step 2 of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit. She asked students to describe their previous experience in creating budgets, she asked them about what they do when they budget their paycheck, and she asked them to try their hand at developing a budget for groceries as a baseline. She used this information to fine- tune her assessment of student levels and lesson planning.

Gathering Information about Prior Knowledge
Examples from Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate
Describing Your Experience What do you already know related to your mathematics goal (developing a monthly budget)? Have you ever developed something like a budget before? What do you already know about the purpose for developing a budget? What knowledge do you already have about the skills required to develop a budget? What mathematics skills do you already have (for example: Do you already know how to add and subtract using monetary values? Do you know how to estimate? Do you have an understanding of basic percentages? Do you know how to calculate how much you might spend in a month, based on a daily estimate?) Do you have a sense of how you might set up a table to represent a household budget? What do you think would be most challenging for you in developing a budget? What steps/parts do you think would be easy? What kind of help do you think you would need in order to develop a budget?
Strategies Interview Form What do you need in order to begin developing a budget? How do you organize your financial information? What do you do if you get stuck? With organizing? With math? With solving equations? How do you show that your solutions are correct?
Knowledge Base Quiz Short oral or pencil and paper "quizzes" can help you determine the knowledge and skills students already have related to their goal (e.g. developing a budget) or to the standard (e.g. the stages in the budgeting process or specific skills related to organizing information and solving mathematical equations related to budgeting).
Writing Sample Ask students to respond to a simple mathematics task. Choose an activity that is somewhat similar to students' goal. Observe your students as they use math. Evaluate the math sample based on the performance continuum.

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