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 Take Responsibility for Learning 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, such as a worksheet for a 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.

The example below will help illustrate how the performance continuum can be used with the teaching and learning cycle. You may want to print out the planning guide Joan used to look at as you read this example. The example takes place in an evening class made up of adult basic education students. The class meets for 6 hours a week. Most of the students have daytime jobs and quite a few have children. In a previous activity they had worked on trying to plan meals within a budget. In the process of doing that activity they developed a stronger interest in learning more about keeping their families healthy, especially when it came to the food that they eat. Two or three students had seen a news special on increasing obesity in children and its health risks and were concerned that their own kids were overweight. They also found they had similar experiences related to trying to feed their families healthy meals that they could afford that also tasted good to their children and did not take a lot of time to make. Using tools from Step 2 of the toolkit, they identified the ability to learn about healthy food options for themselves and their families 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 Take Responsibility for Learning Standard (Steps 1 and 2).

Once the goal and the standard were selected, Joan, their teacher reviewed the performance continuum. For example, based on the earlier learning to learn task she knew about how well most students would be able to use their own individual learning styles and strategies to learn about healthy food options. Based on this preliminary analysis, she felt that most of the students would probably be working toward a Performance Level 2 benchmark with a few working toward Levels 1 and 3. 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 pursuing their learning goals, especially when they were trying to learn more about health and household management. She also asked them about what they do when they are trying to learn more about practical things that could help their families. She used this information to fine- tune her assessment of student levels and lesson planning.

Gathering Information about Prior Knowledge
Examples from Solve Problems and Make Decisions
Describing Your Experience What do you already know about learning to learn and your personal learning style?

Can you think of times when you have tried to learn about similar things, such as what you will need to learn to be able feed you and your family healthier meals?

What strategies do you use when you are trying to learn something new?

What information resources do you use when you are trying to learn something new?

What did you do to make sure that what you learned was helpful to your achieving your learning goal?

What do you think would be most challenging for you in learning about healthy eating? What steps/parts do you think would be easy (fluency)?

What kind of help do you think you would need in order to find more effective ways to learn new things (independence)?
Strategies Interview Form Name two or three strategies you use when you are trying to learn something new? What are two things you can do to make learning easier?

After you have started to use your learning plan, how will you make sure that it is working and that you are learning what you want to learn?

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