Our standardized test scores pointed to a need to work with students more on meaningful, multi-step math problems. I determined this need when I noticed students doing quite well on multiple choice tests, but not so well on tests that required deeper thinking. To counter that, time was spent this summer crafting what I named performance assessments with the goal in mind that these assessments would tell us more about students' deeper mathematical thinking and application. As we started the tasks, tasks that used a process approach of partner work, peer/teacher edits, revision, and self-assessment, a colleague noted that they really were not assessments in the sense that students weren't completing the work on their own and turning it in for a grade. That's when I changed the name to performance tasks, with the idea in mind that we were asking students to perform a math task that required deeper thinking. Then, today, David Wees published a very short post about practice which left me wondering if we should call these tasks, practice tasks. We'll likely stick with performance tasks.
As I assessed students' initial work on these tasks, I found that they were engaged and applying the learning we had done related to the concept focus of the task. Tomorrow they will embark on part two of the task, and I'll be interested if their engagement continues and their performance rises--I'm looking forward to watching them engage with the task, work with partners, talk about their work with me, and make any needed revisions. These performance task records will be kept in students' portfolios so they can refer back to the tasks and also talk about the tasks as they review their learning with family members and teachers at the upcoming conferences.
In a couple of weeks, students will have a traditional assessment on the same concepts, skills, and knowledge. I will be interested to see if I see a positive effect of the performance tasks on students' ability to take a traditional test.
In the meantime, I'll continue down this road to deepen math instruction in ways that build a greater love, interest, understanding, skill and meaning when it comes to math learning. Onward.