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 Solve Problems and Make Decisions 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. This 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. As they discussed their work and home responsibilities, they discovered that many of them had financial concerns about living beyond their means. They also found they had similar experiences related to trying to feed their families healthy meals that they could afford. They identified as one of their group goals being able to plan meals for a week that family members will like on a limited grocery budget. As they went through Steps 1 and 2 of the cycle they decided to work on this goal using the Solve Problems and Make Decisions Standard (Steps 1 and 2).

Once the goal and the standard were selected, Joan, their teacher reviewed the performance continuum. Looking at the level descriptions, she compared these to what she already knew about the students. For example, based on an earlier task on budgeting she knew about how well most students would be able to create a simple food budget and plan a week's worth of meals. 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, Joan also customized some tools from Step 2 of the Teaching and Learning Toolkit. She asked students to describe their previous experience in planning meals and solving problems surrounding meal planning and staying within a budget. She also asked them about what they do when they are confronted with problems within their families related to food that they like or about affording food. 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 problem solving and decision making?

Can you think of times when you have dealt with similar problems, like the ones that may come up while you are planning your week's meals?

What did you do when those problems came up?

What strategies did you use when you tried to solve these problems?

How do you decide on one solution over another?

What did you do after you had decided on a solution to the problem?

What do you think would be most challenging for you in planning this menu? What steps/parts do you think would be easy (fluency)?

What kind of help do you think you would need in order to develop this menu plan (independence)?
Strategies Interview Form Name two or three strategies you use when you have to solve a problem? What are two things you can do to arrive at a clearer understanding of a problem?

After you have developed your solution to your problem, what are some things you can do to make sure it works?
Problem-solving Sample Ask students to respond to a simple problem-solving task such as planning a menu for one day's worth of meals. Observe your students as they use problem solving and decision making strategies. Evaluate the problem-solving sample based on the performance continuum.

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