Mario Galaxy 2 Nintendo You have to admire videogames. Regardless of their console, genre, or style, every videogame has to accomplish two things in order to be successful:

  • They have to teach their user how to play the game.
  • They have to convince them to keep playing.

Developers use a number of methods to keep gamers invested, but one of the most successful is to provide achievements. For those of you unfamiliar with videogame nomenclature, “Achievements” are small awards scattered throughout the game which can only be “achieved” by meeting certain conditions. These conditions range from being fairly simple (Put on your costume – Batman: Arkham City) to borderline impossible (Play 6-7 hours of unbroken music without pausing or making a mistake – Rock Band 2). They can be intellectually edifying (Build some bookshelvesMinecraft), or downright stupid (Perform all royal duties while dressed as a chicken – Fable 3). Regardless of their criteria, achievements are useful because they give players something to aim for.

Being a teacher means getting a lot of things thrown at us all the time; balls to juggle, plates to spin, hats to wear, not to mention all that paperwork done on the side. Performance Expectations (PE’s for short) operate a bit like videogame achievements. They provide a goal and a set of conditions for classrooms to work towards. However, PE’s themselves can be daunting to understand and even harder to implement. Here is a quick breakdown of Performance Expectations and how you can use them to support your students. 

What are PE’s and how can I use them?

The National Research Council developed PE’s and first published them in a book called, The Framework. This ultimately resulted in the creation of NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards). Three dimensions make up a PE,

  1. The Science and Engineering Practices
  2. Disciplinary Core Content
  3. Crosscutting Concepts

Together, these documents make up the Performance Expectation. You can search for Performance Expectations by grade level and content. Each entry also contains a brief description you can use to plan or deconstruct lessons.

How do Evidence Statements support PE’s?

From the NGSS website, use the Quick Search tool to find any Performance Expectation you need. Once selected, you’ll find Related Evidence Statements listed on the side. This downloadable PDF specifies what students should know and be able to accomplish by the end of their grade. The benefit of an Evidence Statement is that it breaks the knowledge down into manageable chunks. One lesson probably won’t be enough to cover a single PE, so you can tackle different portions of the Evidence Statement by working in stages.

How do I get started using PE’s?

Remember that Performance Expectations are similar to Videogame Achievements. A Mario game once had players collect a star from atop a large tower. One gamer accomplished this by jumping between buildings, another climbed a nearby structure and shimmied over, a third shot himself out of a cannon. The goal isn’t the end result, it’s to inspire creativity and critical thinking within your students.

If you need to begin somewhere, start by identifying what it is you want students to know or learn. Next, decide what students can investigate to discover the intended content and make an evidence-based claim. Follow this up with a question that will engage a student’s curiosity, and end by giving them a choice in how they should proceed. Students can accomplish much when they’re given the freedom and creativity to try, all they need is something to aim for!

What about you? How do you use Performance Expectations within your classroom?

*Image Courtesy of Nintendo