Denise Mulloy teaches Math at St. Gregory; just last week she attended the Council for Aid to Education’s CLA in the Classroom Performance Task Academy, which provides to attendees the chance to learn to develop  in their own classroom curriculum performance tasks comparable to those used for the CWRA (College Work Readiness Assessment).

Here is her report:

It was an interesting and challenging training on bringing the Collegiate Learning Assessment (and the high school version College and Work Readiness Assessment) into classroom teaching using Performance Tasks. “The Performance Task Academies aim to help faculty develop and assess student learning holistically, and to focus on key higher order skills in ways that replicate how these skills are uses in the ‘larger world.'” It was similar to the work we have been examining in the HEAT conferences and the visits to High Tech High.

The highlights for me were:

  • The illustrations of traditional testing vs. the CWRA test which tests all of the following:
    • Problem solving
    • Technical skills
    • Writing clearly
    • Creativity
    • Flexibility
    • Planning
    • Dealing with ambiguity
    • Evaluate multiple perspectives
    • Dealing with failure and confusion
  • The explanations of developing rubics to assess these talents and learning achievements. I liked the use of the descriptives, Mastery, Developing and Emerging, in the rubrics.
  • The work of Grant Wiggins who describes a “Backwards Design Method” for creating performance tasks. Much like we start with lesson objectives, Wiggins starts with the essential question and importantly what do we see as transfer goals in the near term and future for the student.
  • One of the characteristics of the Perf Task is to give the student a role to play in the scenario. This was similar to the design of High Tech High projects. I saw how effective that was in this conference. Write a business plan for XYZ versus you are the financial manager of XYZ in charge of profit and loss.
  • There is overlap in Performance Tasks and Project (or problem) Based Learning (and other non-lecture teaching).  The big difference is that performance tasks are created and delivered in the classroom as a deliberate vehicle to measure the students “metacognitive” skills answering the question, “Does the student think like a _________ (fill in subject such as mathematician). One of the distinctive characteristics of Perf Tasks is that the background materials and evidences are limited to what is given in the problem with some built-in fallacies which need to be identified by the students. Usually when we do projects with our students they are open to research the area under study.