I am fond of using performance-based learning and assessment in my courses. There are times when other methods are more appropriate, such as certain instances when the course objectives are focused on knowledge recall only. (I hope to address these situations in a future post.) However, most courses involve some skills-based objectives as well. In these situations, it is important to allow learners to practice their new skills in realistic contexts.
My focus on developing strong performance-based activities and assessments stems from an experience I had as a learner. While completing my undergraduate degree in college, I worked in a department store during a few summers and school vacations. My new-hire training was comprised of some videos, written materials to study, and practice transactions on a cash register. The cash register simulations took place in an employee training room, far removed from the customer areas of the store. I completed all of the required training, confident in my ability to correctly input the information needed to process purchases, returns, and exchanges.
The next day, I was sent out to the sales floor for the first time. Handling transactions for real customers was nothing like the training I had completed in the back room. It was the holiday season. Lines were long, customers were tired and hurried, and many had questions not covered in the training. I did my best to handle each transaction, but I realized how much more prepared I would have been if I had practiced under these types of realistic circumstances. I keep that experience in mind when determining how to design both the instructional and assessment components of my courses.
Simulating realistic experiences can be challenging in an e-learning environment, but it definitely can be done. It is also one of the parts of the instructional design process that I enjoy the most. Below are some examples of performance-based learning activities and assessments I have created in past projects.
This course was designed for an audience of caregivers for people with Celiac disease. One of the course objectives states: Given a food label and a list of gluten-containing ingredients, caregivers will classify the food as either safe or unsafe for people with Celiac disease to eat 100% of the time. To practice this skill, I wanted learners to have the opportunity to read real food labels and determine if the foods are gluten free, which mimics what they will have to do in real life. Learners are given a list of gluten-containing ingredients to avoid, which they are asked to bookmark. They use this list to complete some label reading practice activities, receiving feedback on their choices. Next, they complete similar activities independently as an assessment.
This artifact is from a blended learning course I designed on job search skills. One module focused on interviewing. Since learners were completing the course remotely, opportunities were created for students to participate in mock interviews done using web conferencing software. They were given the assignment rubric in advance to assist with their practice and preparations. These mock interviews simulated realistic interview situations while allowing students opportunities to receive immediate feedback.