Performance tasks are integrated into a unit of instruction to draw upon learned content knowledge, process skills and work habits. Performance tasks are teaching and learning strategies, but they are also used as a means of assessment. Through performance tasks, students develop a process for and construct a product as a means to answering questions. At the elementary school level, performance tasks are used in reading, math and science classes.
Performance Task Basics
A performance task is a student-centered process to find an answer to a question posed in a specific content area. Tasks are broken down into five basic steps. The first step focuses on gathering information. Students are given sources to find information and instructed on how to organize and record them. Then, students are asked to work with the information by evaluating, comparing or explaining gathered information. Next, students use the information for a purpose. The information is used to persuade an audience of the student's explanation of the gathered information. The next step is to use the information to create a presentation or product, including speaking, drawing or demonstrating. Finally, the information is presented to a specific audience.
Performance tasks in the reading classroom include options for fiction, poetry and informational texts. When studying fiction, students are asked to retell a story and demonstrate the theme of the story. Students may be asked to describe the relationship among the key events of a story or between two characters. Focusing on language, students identify words that support a theme or meaning. Performance tasks associated with informational texts include asking questions about texts or identifying key facts and information. Students may also be asked to determine connections between two texts.
Performance tasks in mathematics classes are extended word problems that ask students to evaluate data, use a variety of sources or create a physical representation of a solution to a math problem. Performance tasks include making sense of the problem itself, reasoning both abstractly and quantitatively, constructing arguments, critiquing the arguments of others and modeling solutions using mathematics. An example of a performance task in math is asking students to use knowledge of comparing, ordering and adding fractions in solving and modeling the solution to a word problem about sharing food. Another example of a performance task is asking students to determine the volume of a space in the classroom and propose which objects -- desks, chairs or books -- can fit in that space.
Performance tasks in the science classroom fully engage students in the discovery of scientific principles. Science performance tasks at the elementary level may take the approach of an extended experiment or search for data. Tasks are focused on observation skills, gathering data, identifying traits and characteristics, categorizing information and organizing information. Once initial investigation has occurred, skills may include designing experiments, predicting results, collecting and recording data and summarizing results. An example of a performance task in science is categorizing objects as living or nonliving and developing a rubric of characteristics of both types of objects.
- ACSD: Teacher's Guide to Performance-Based Learning and Assessment
- Glencoe/McGraw-Hill: Teaching Today: Performance Assessment- It's What You Do with What You Know
- Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks
- New York City Department of Education: Common Core-Aligned Task with Instructional Supports: Grade 3 Math: Cookie Dough
- New York City Department of Education: Common Core-Aligned Task with Instructional Supports: Grade 4 Math: Chocolate Bar Fractions
- Colorado Department of Education: Alternate Assessment Collaborative: Performance Task Assessment Elementary Science
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