Using the Performance Continuum Within the Teaching and Learning Cycle

Using the Performance Continuum to Assess Prior Knowledge

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 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 Learn Through Research 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.

The example below will help illustrate how the performance continuum can be used with the teaching and learning cycle. This example takes place in a workplace literacy program held at a regional food preparation and distribution warehouse that services pizza franchises around the state. The class meets for an hour and a half three times a week between the day and night shifts. Some students attend before their shift starts while others attend at the end of their workday. All of the students speak Spanish as their first language but have lived in the U.S. for some time. Many have attended several ESL classes on the job site and are now at a high advanced level of English speaking ability. Students range from those who have not completed high school and are studying to earn a GED to those who have completed college and held supervisory jobs in their home countries. Nevertheless because of their language skills all but two of the students are entry-level workers who work in food preparation, on the loading dock, or in janitorial services. A number of students are at the point where they would like to move up to a higher paying job but are unsure about what is required of jobs other than their own and are nervous about whether they have the English skills to handle the work. As a class they discussed the need to find out more about the requirements of other jobs on the worksite. As they went through Steps 1 and 2 of the cycle they decided to work on this goal using the Learn Through Research Standard (Steps 1 and 2).

Once the goal and the standard were selected, Jose, their teacher, reviewed the performance continuum. Looking at the level descriptions, he compared these to what he already knew about the students. He knew most students had some understanding of research methods used in science and in school related areas. However, he noticed that many did not know about sources that could consulted about moving up on the job, such as job manuals and the company's on-line web site. Many also felt somewhat shy about asking native English speaking colleagues in supervisory positions about their jobs. Based on his preliminary analysis, he felt that most of the students could work toward a Performance Level 3 benchmark.

In order to gain additional information the Jose also customized some tools from Step 2 of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit. He asked students to describe their understanding of the purpose of research and steps in the research process. He also asked them about what they have already done to find out about jobs at their worksite. He used this information to fine- tune his assessment of student levels and lesson planning. Although he gathered this information primarily in English, at times the group also used Spanish to describe more complex concepts such as strategy usage.

Gathering Information about Prior Knowledge
Examples from Learn Through Research
Describing Your Experience What do you already know the purpose of research? What are the steps in the research process? What sources of information can be used in the research process?

Can you think of times when you have done research in the past to find out more about a particular topic? W hat kind of research did you do? Where did you find information about this topic?

What strategies did you use to help you find information when you were researching this topic?

What did you do with the information you found about this topic? Did you summarize it in some way?

What strategies did you use to ensure that the research that you were doing was effective?

How did you communicate your research findings?

What do you think will be the most challenging for you in researching about jobs here at the plant? What steps/parts do you think would be easy? (fluency)

What kind of help do you think you will need in order to do this research? (independence)
Strategies Interview Form Name two or three strategies you might use when you are gathering information in order to do research about a kind of job? What are two or three sources that you could use to get information about a job?

After you have gathered information about your topic, how will you make sure that your researching was effective and your information is useful?

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