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 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 Convey Ideas in Writing 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 and five or six ESL students at the low advanced level. The class meets for 6 hours a week. Most of the students have daytime jobs at local hotels and stores and as daycare providers. As they discussed their work responsibilities, they discovered that many of them worried about having to write up information about problems that occur on the job. So, they have identified being able to write accident reports at work 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 Convey Ideas in Writing 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 student using TABE and BEST test results, writing samples her program collected during intake, and the results of a previous writing activity some of the students completed last semester. Based on this preliminary analysis, she felt that most of the students would probably be working toward a Level 4 benchmark with a few working toward Levels 3 and 5. 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 writing accident reports, she asked them about what they do when they write, and she asked them to try their hand at writing an accident report 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 Convey Ideas in Writing
Describing Your Experience What do you already know related to your writing goal (writing an accident report) Have you ever written something like an accident report before? What do you already know about the audience and purpose for accident reports at your job? What knowledge do you already have about what goes into a short report? What writing skills do you already have? How easy do you think it would be for you to write an accident report (fluency)? How much help do you think you would need (independence)?
Strategies Interview Form What do you do before you start writing? How do you organize what you will say? What do you do if you get stuck? With writing? With spelling? With grammar and punctuation? How do you improve on or revise what you wrote?
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. writing accident reports) or to the standard (e.g. the stages in the writing process or specific skills related to text structure and organization, grammar, punctuation, or language usage).
Writing Sample Ask students to respond to a simple writing prompt. Choose a kind of writing or topic somewhat similar to students' goal. Observe your students as they write. Evaluate the writing sample based on the performance continuum (The generic performance level rubrics described in later in this guide may be helpful in this process).

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