Design Projects for Authentic and Relevant Performance
Meet the Maker
Angie Nastovska, Director of Humanities and Innovation
Have you ever played an instrument?
Yes! When I was little, I used to play the piano (for four years), but my kid self “was too busy,” so I had to stop. I regret it every single day.
Have you ever locked yourself out of the car or house?
Yes! Car! A funny encounter. I had a super old car and managed to lock my keys inside, so I got a metal hanger to unlock it. It looked like a robbery.
What’s one of your best childhood memories?
There are so many, but one that vividly just popped in my mind is climbing my backyard cherry tree. I loved going so high (above a three-story house) that I would feel the wind swaying me left and right.
This Week’s Focus:
How can we design projects for successful learners who are competent for authentic and relevant performance?
This issue focuses on the work of Esther Wojcicki with emphasis on transfer as a goal of project design and learning experiences. Wojcicki has been in education for more than 30 years and is most famous for the following achievements:
- Teaching a high school class that has changed the lives of thousands of students.
- Raising three daughters who have each become famously successful as the CEO of YouTube, the founder and CEO of 23andMe, and a top medical researcher.
- Inspiring many others in Silicon Valley and around the world.
In the latest episode of The Backwards Podcast, Wojcicki refers to her latest book, How to Raise Successful People. She discusses how ‘success’ and ‘successful’ look very different for everyone. Listen here:
Inquiry: How do we nurture independence?
Instead of control and compliance, take a look at Ester’s trick. “I” is for independence, and independence leads to competence. Throughout life — at school, at home, outside — kids need to feel competent at understanding things, seizing opportunities, figuring something out. And sometimes they need to do all this without a specific plan, design or directions.
Throughout the processes of planning, curriculum design and project ideation, we need to always look for the “transfer” of ideas, concepts and skills. Understanding is evident when kids can transfer their learning to new and “messy” situations.
Jay McTighe on the role of performance tasks (vs. tests) to promote transfer:
“A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks yield a tangible product and/or performance that serve as evidence of learning. Unlike a selected-response item (e.g., multiple-choice or matching) that asks students to select from given alternatives, a performance task presents a situation that calls for learners to apply their learning in context. Performance tasks are routinely used in certain disciplines, such as visual and performing arts, physical education, and career-technology where performance is the natural focus of instruction. However, such tasks can (and should) be used in every subject area and at all grade levels.”
McTighe on characteristics of performance tasks:
- Performance tasks call for the application of knowledge and skills, not just recall or recognition.
- Performance tasks are open-ended and typically do not yield only a single, correct answer.
- Performance tasks establish novel and authentic contexts for performance.
- Performance tasks provide evidence of understanding via transfer.
- Performance tasks are multifaceted.
- Performance tasks can integrate two or more subjects as well as 21st-century skills.
- Performances on open-ended tasks are evaluated with established criteria and rubrics.
While any performance by a learner might be considered a performance task (e.g., tying a shoe or drawing a picture), it is useful to distinguish between the application of specific and discrete skills (e.g., dribbling a basketball) from genuine performance in context (e.g., playing the game of basketball in which dribbling is one of many applied skills).
Educational innovator and author A.J. Juliani said, “The key to making any performance task relevant and meaningful is to be able to fail the performance and continue learning. Performance tasks can fall into the same category as tests if they are not authentic.”
Juliani adds, “Whether at home or in school, we have to bring trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness into the curriculum and performances that share learning, even when things are not perfect. This means going beyond the standards. It means teaching above the test. And above all, it means that learning is a process, and performances get better with time, they get better with practice, and they ultimately can lead to a real transfer of skills and understanding in the world.”
Read this full article on Esther Wojcicki:
Check out the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) Performance Assessment Resource Bank. Sign-up is free. You can access SCALE’s performance task bank with tasks for every grade level and major subject area. This includes information on developing rubrics and performance tasks plus more.
Also, take a look at Jay McTighe’s website. You’ll find a wealth of information on performance tasks and other useful assessment topics.