3 Strategies for Developing Performance Tasks in Social Studies Subjects

There is no magic prescription for ensuring that curriculum and delivery are always in sync. Writer intent, instructor style, and student ability are all considerations beyond the control of the respective stakeholders. One of the best ways for curriculum writers of Social Studies subjects to mitigate these factors is to develop performance tasks that enable teachers to better match content and pedagogy .

1) Get Inventive!

It’s okay to create an activity you’ve never seen before. In fact, a writer’s willingness to go out on a curricular limb can be the missing ingredient that helps Social Studies come to life. In a lesson on capitalism, investment, and banking, an Economics writer could include directions and illustrations for creating a life-size Monopoly board that motivates an entire room of students into experiential learning. The World History curriculum writer may want to suggest an enhancement that asks learners to identify different cultures based on the style and components of clothing as a form of non-linguistic cognition. New might be good (and it might not be), but invention is an active decision.

2) Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy is Always Relevant

Despite all of the new derivations of his work, Bloom’s classic differentiation between levels of cognition are as applicable today as ever. Curriculum writers are in the tough position of having to write to a generalized audience without under- or over-estimating cognitive levels. Social Studies curricula have to address the verbs of the taxonomy at all cognitive levels. Matching Sigmund Freud to one of his major theories is a great recall exercise in Psychology, and having to explain why his theory was significant in that same lesson increases the rigor of the factoid. Once the student has worked her way up the levels of cognition, she can demonstrate mastery by synthesizing Freud’s role in Psychology and making her own hypothesis about the relevance of his work today. When writers organize and present content for new curricula, they should do so with constant attention to cognitive demand and performance of the verbs in Bloom’s pyramid.

Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid


3) Pilot Every Task Before Delivery

When a school receives a new curriculum, it is always a daunting task to implement—but what can make that implementation unsuccessful is a curriculum that hasn’t been properly vetted and tested. As writers, we have a tendency to want to do everything on the computer screen, but we need to put our work through the paces. If you’re writing a small update to curriculum about influential social movements in American History, consider including an activity that has students perform their own research to find a social movement with which they identify—and then give them resources to explore. Here’s the important part: perform that activity yourself first. Did the hyperlinks work? Did the activity align with the standards? Were there unintended results that may require you to amend your activity? These questions require writers to question and test their work so that, by the time a new curriculum makes its way to the client, the wrinkles don’t impede implementation.

crash test dummies


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