Category Archives: Performance Tasks

A performance task is designed to give students opportunities to synthesize their learning and demonstrate evidence of both deeper understanding and higher-order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, technology use, collaboration).

A Three Dimensional Learning Task

In many recent projects, we have taken on the challenge of developing three-dimensional learning tasks and lessons. We often start with a close reading of the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). The instructional designers then meet with subject matter experts to design a task with learning outcomes that measure specific performance expectations. In the example below, the task was designed to meet these three-dimensional learning goals.

Three-dimensional learningWe have already blogged about using the PhET Skate Park simulation to develop a performance task. We decided to take another stab at it, as a proof of concept for a three dimensional learning task. This task is a bit more challenging than our first one.

Please watch the video and then try the performance task. We’d love to hear your feedback!

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A Revolutionary Interactive Lesson

In our last blog on performance tasks, we revealed our instructional design approach to creating a social studies performance task, The Boston Massacre.

In this blog, we’ll explain why we expanded the performance task to become an interactive lesson, with embedded performance tasks. So, this is really an evolution, not a revolution.

Here is a sneak preview of the lesson:

What Was Missing in the Original Task?

Our original Boston Massacre performance task was unique in several regards:

  • It developed critical thinking through the analysis and comparison of key characters.
  • Students evaluated multiple causes and effects to rank the importance of earlier events that led up to the key event.
  • Students needed to do a close reading to find evidence to support their arguments.
But, a performance task is rarely used in isolation. It is either part of a summative assessment or used formatively in a lesson. For a lesson, providing a stand-alone performance task requires the teacher to do a lot of work before it can be effective. The teacher has to decide:
  • whether it supports the lesson objectives,
  • when to use it in a lesson,
  • how to provide support if students struggle, and
  • how to use the scores.

Even the world’s best performance task won’t help students if teachers won’t use it!

Collaborating on a Solution

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Design: The Secret Behind Effective Digital Learning Experiences–Part 2

In our first blog on this topic, we began to reveal the secret behind the magnetic allure of games, simulations, and other online performance-based digital learning experiences. We showed you a well-aligned, well-designed simulation-based science performance task.

In this blog, we’ll show you how the design of a digital performance task directly influences the richness of the data we can gather on student learning. This time, we’ll use a social studies task we developed:

Behind the Scenes: Designing the Boston Massacre Performance Task

We designed this performance task to give students opportunities to visually, graphically, and dynamically analyze text, make inferences based on evidence, and synthesize their understanding.

Why? Let’s examine the standards. The C3 framework, CCSS standards, and other state and national efforts to align learning expectations to 21st-century workforce demands are emphasizing critical analysis and evidence from text.


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Skate Park Performance Task

We have become proficient at developing performance tasks closely aligned to NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Of course, a good performance task aligns to standards across multiple disciplines. The following task was developed for middle grades and for these learning goals.

Please watch the video and then try the performance task. We’d love to hear your feedback!

You have been asked to make the jump safe. The video below explains how to set up a simulation to investigate.

Your Task

Click “Playground” in the PhET® simulation below and set up a jump as shown in the video. Remember to set friction to zero and always release the skateboarder from a height of 5 meters.

Then modify the setup to make the jump safe, where “safe” is defined as converting less than 1/4 of the total energy into thermal energy.

Use your observations of the skateboarder’s motion to explain why reducing thermal energy transfer reduces the risk of injury.

The Skate Park simulation was developed by PhET.
PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder,

The performance task was developed and designed by Victory Productions, Inc.
© 2015 Victory Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

metacog Partners with PhET Interactive Simulations

A lot of education companies are putting data analytics to work, because the first step in improving student outcomes is to see where students are.

All Data Analytics Were Not Created Equal

But you can only get so much from information collected outside the activities. That kind of data is like taking student attendance — was the student present? Did the student stay for the whole class? How many activities did the student complete, and what were the scores?

These status reports are useful, but to truly get insight, you need to see what students are doing inside the digital activities. These are the kinds of richer questions we can now ask:

  • Did the student struggle?
  • Did the student persist and improve?
  • Did the student achieve a high score through insight into the core principles and practices?

metacog Partnering with PhET Interactive Simulations

In the STEM disciplines, metacog is paving the way with a joint venture with PhET Interactive Simulations, the premier developer of science simulations. The timing couldn’t be better, as many publishers are struggling to develop programs that match the spirit and intent of the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).

See the press release for more details, and feel free to share with your colleagues.