Sunday, November 2, 2008

Performance Walls Help Students Improve

I’ve facilitated 21 Inquiry Team meetings over the last month and a half, and during those meetings two instructional strategies are frequently discussed: anchor charts and performance walls. I've explained anchor charts in an earlier post and now, after meeting with the SHDHS Transition Inquiry Group, I have some great examples of performance walls. The group tried this assessment for learning strategy as part of their plan for improving achievement in their applied grade nine classes.

What Are Performance Walls?
A performance wall provides a student with explicit directions for moving any level of performance to the next level and models the standard that we expect students to reach. To develop a performance wall, teachers need to have exemplars for at least two different levels of work. Next, explicit 'how to' steps explaining how to reach the next level should be recorded on strips or arrows. Developing these steps and phrasing them in explicit, student-friendly language is often the most challenging part of creating a performance wall. An example of a next step might be, include an example from the text.

How Do Teachers Use Them?
When the performance wall is introduced to the class, teachers should review with students the steps required to reach the next level. When work is returned to students, the feedback should consist of the same instructions or language used on the performance wall. Then, the students get an opportunity to revise their work. This revision process is explained and modelled by the teacher when the performance wall is introduced.

Improving Metacognition
Essentially, performance walls are an assessment for learning practice that allow students to improve their work by comparing it to exemplars and by following explicit next steps. They help the teacher communicate clear expectations and help students develop the thinking skills required to become evaluators of their own work.

Watch this clip to see a geography teacher explain her performance wall for mapping.

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