At this point, you are feeling pretty solid on what you want your students to know and be able to do by the end of your course. You have even determined what you unit objectives are going to be and paired the performance indicators with the topic to provide a context for student learning. Now you are ready to plan your assessments and learning activities. Let’s take a look at how to do that.
Step 5 – Designing Authentic, Performance-Based Assessments.
I know, that seems really specific, and in a way, it is. If we want students to leave our classes not only knowing new information and being able to apply skills, but also having the ability to transfer that new learning outside of the classroom and in a variety of settings we must assess them in ways that have students show us they have the ability to do so. The best way to do this is through summative, performance assessments that have students perform the action we want them to do in their real life, in situations that are similar to what they will face in their real lives. In other words, demonstrate successful application of the skill. This is an important distinction because a test or quiz will show you what a student knows, but not necessarily their ability to apply their learning.
Here are some examples of performance-based assessments for different skills:
- Students identify a health service in your community and evaluate this product or service using the ACCESS skill cues and then describe whether the source or product is a credible and reliable and justify their reasoning. Skill = accessing information, products and services
- Have each student complete a personal wellness assessment and identify one are to improve. Once identified, set a goal and work through a goal setting process to improve the behavior. Students need to have time to work on their goal and reflect on their experience working toward the goal. Skill = goal setting
- Evaluate and review local risk behavior data. Identify an unhealthy behavior students are engaging in and create commercials or advocacy campaigns that promotes the positive health behavior. Skill = advocacy
- Have students create an infographic that provides tips and strategies for reducing stress for a target audience of their choosing. Skill = advocacy
You will notice that the emphasis here is on the skill. You could include any topic into any of the sample assessments. This is one of the great things about a skills-based approach – you can easily include a variety of topics but you also have opportunities for student choice! Your focus is on the skill so whether they advocate for healthier eating, crossing guards near the school, more open park space or stress management – you can skill evaluate their ability to perform the skill of advocacy and you can let me choose an area/topic they are interested in. It’s a “win-win”!
The opportunities for meaningful, engaging and relevant assessments are endless. Here are some tips to remember as you consider developing your performance tasks:
- One assessment for the skill – Ensure that the assessment measures ALL performance indicators being used within the unit. You want one final assessment that has students demonstrate their ability to apply the skill.
- Promote critical thinking – Go beyond memorizing new information. Have students get creative and apply their learning. Whether it is through a dialogue, infographic, comic strip, role play or performance have students demonstrate the skill in action.
- Get personal – Write your assessments so they require students to apply the skill and their learning in ways that are meaningful or applicable to their world. Let’s get away from having students tell us how someone else should handle a decision and have them work through a decision that is meaningful to them.
- Get practical – There are so many aspects to health and we never have enough time to cover everything. Design assessments that make a difference. For example, while knowing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions helps to raise awareness, instead consider focusing on ways to reduce stigma of mental illness, promote strategies to support a friend, or identify local resources for help and support.
Step 6 – Lessons & Activities
Now, you can think about all of those great activities and classroom experiences that will help prepare students to meet the identified objectives, prepare them to successfully apply the skill, help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to successfully complete the assessment and see the connection of the skill to their real life outside of the classroom.
Some of the activities you have been using in the classroom will not work when you transition to a skills-based approach. I repeat, some of the activities you are using – maybe even some of the ones that you love – will need to be modified or removed. I know this is a challenge – Sarah and I have found this to be one of the hardest parts for teachers and we get it! But we promise that you will find new activities that you will love equally as much – or more – and that you will not regret your decision to make the shift!
Here are some things to consider as you are planning your lessons and activities:
- Participatory methods – focus on student-centered approaches where students are active participants, constructing their own learning and take ownership of what is happening in the classroom. Here is a link to a great blog post from Education Rickshaw about “changing the direction” of learning in the classroom: Time to Throw Out the Playbook
- Purposeful planning – one of the benefits of a backward design approach is that you can maximize the limited time you have with students by planning activities that are aligned with your unit objectives and that help students work toward being able to successfully complete the unit assessment and to achieve the stated outcomes.
- Make connections to other learning – as more and more schools move to a competency-based system, use your lessons as an opportunity to reinforce previous learning. We are making connections and helping students to transfer their learning.
You may also be able to provide a second (or third) opportunity for students to demonstrate a previously assessed competency. Note: only use this approach when students have already been assessed a first time. We don’t want to try to teach or assess two skills at once.
- Time is limited – even with thoughtful planning, time can get away from us and we can be forced to make important decisions about what to keep and what to pass up. Consider this when planning your lessons. When we know ahead of time what is the most important we can be sure to spend the most time there and in ways that will help our students to demonstrate the desired outcomes.
Until next time…remember,
The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.