Performance Tasks

What is a performance task?
Performance tasks are a type of challenging performance-based, summative assessment that requires students to apply their knowledge and skills to solve complex problems and to create meaningful work products. Stanford's Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) defines a performance-based assessment as "asking students to think and to produce - to demonstrate learning through work that is authentic to the discipline and/or to the real world."

Why are performance tasks important in competency-based education?
In a competency-based learning model, students must demonstrate that they can successfully apply their knowledge and skills to achieve a goal or complete a task in order to advance to the next level.  True/false, multiple choice, and short answer test questions are limited in what they can assess in terms of how students think, how well they've grasped a concept or skill, and most importantly, how well they can apply their learning.  Alternatively, performance tasks always require students to put their skills and knowledge to work.

SCALE describes four core principles of performance tasks (PTs):
  1. PTs target skills and knowledge that matter and that are essential to ollege and career readiness (higher order thinking skills that can transfer to different applications)
  2.  PT is assessment not only of learning, but also for learning. The assessment itself is a learning experience for students in which students engage in additional reading, research, collaboration, and so forth. 
  3. PT links curriculum, instruction, and assessment. 
  4. PT is learning by doing -- constructing answers, creating presentations, taking action, explaining data, posing inquiry questions, and so forth. When designing a unit, educators start with the question: what is the creative moment? What will students create from scratch that enables them to apply what they just learned?

What about formative tasks?
Formative assessments are also critically important in a competency-based school model because they:
  • Generate important data about students' knowledge and skills
  • Inform and enable personalized instruction and learning pathways
  • Serve as the "gateway" to performance tasks
It is important to note that in our competency-based model, formative assessments do not contribute to a student's grade. This is because grades are based on student evidence of mastery - the ability to apply knowledge and skills to solve complex problems or create meaningful work products.

Where can I find high-quality performance tasks?
There is a growing number of great sources out there for high-quality performance tasks.  Here are a few of our favorite open source  task banks: