By Maria J. Treviño
You have heard the statement, “Test the way you Teach, and Teach the way you Test”. This is an excellent way to think about performance-based instruction and assessment. If you teach the way you test using performance-based instruction and test the way you teach using performance-based assessment, you are on your way to developing proficiency in your students.
How do proficiency and standards affect performance-based instruction? In previous blogs I have repeatedly stated that administrators and teachers should be knowledgeable about the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the Standards for Foreign Language Learning. The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines help teachers understand the language levels of novice, intermediate, and advanced which are applicable to developing student proficiency. The Standards for Foreign Language Learning describe what students need to know as they learn Spanish. Once teachers are familiar with the guidelines and standards, they are able to develop instructional activities that permit students to demonstrate their knowledge of Spanish.
In reference to the two examples in Blog 1 of this series, the first example was an exercise that involved four unrelated sentences – no context, no proficiency, and no standard. Example 2 is a more real-world task as the paragraph describes a short story about three kids that visit their grandmother (Novice proficiency; Communication Standard). The task is appropriate for a novice/beginner student. Asking a Spanish 1 student to express and support an opinion is unrealistic because it is beyond the student’s language level. Asking a Spanish 4 to describe his family is way too easy.
A student can be asked to perform a task and he can do so if he has the opportunity to practice it in class. The tasks that the teachers develop, at the appropriate language level and focused on a standard, can be performed when students can connect them to real-world situations. In many cases, the teacher follows the order of the textbook and plans lessons accordingly. There are districts that base their curriculum on the textbook and require the teachers to follow the curriculum/ textbook. Under these circumstances, teachers can very well manipulate the content to develop performance-based activities and apply appropriate standards while still meeting district mandates.
Administrators/supervisors should provide the necessary leeway for teachers to have input into the district curriculum so that it reflects content and activities that lead to performance-based instruction and assessment as well as meeting the standards for learning Spanish.
María J. Fierro-Treviño
Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)
Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)