Performance Based Learning (PBL)

Performance based learning is an approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes students being able to do, or perform, specific skills as a result of the instruction. In this framework, students demonstrate the ability to apply or use knowledge, rather than simply knowing the information. Performance based learning typically includes activities and tasks that are authentic and meaningful to the students. PBL focuses on how the content is taught and assessed, not on the specific content covered in a course, so it can be applied across instructional areas. Schoolcraft College has adopted an Institution-wide Performance Based Learning Initiative.

The PBL Model: Creating Courses and Programs

Adapting existing courses to the PBL model provides an opportunity for faculty to think through the goals and pedagogical approach for their course. It does not require that the course content be changed, nor does it dictate how the course will be taught, or limit the instructor’s creativity. All courses can be adapted to a PBL framework with the instructor retaining full control over how the course will be delivered.

To adapt courses to the PBL model, the emphasis shifts from evaluating what the students know to a more student centered focus of evaluating what the students are able to do with their knowledge. This shift has been occurring as course competencies are written using performance verbs from Bloom’s taxonomy at the application level or higher. The course level work will be the foundation used to support the performance based learning evaluation at both the program level, using program outcomes, and at the institution level, using core abilities. Departments will then be able to create an action plan to best meet the student and departmental needs, using the data collected in the evaluation to guide them. The continuous quality improvement aspect of performance based learning is embedded within the process and allows all levels of instruction and evaluation to support each other. The Office of Curriculum and Assessment is available to assist faculty members, as needed, as they move through this process.

Resources for Faculty

For faculty interested in reading more about Performance Based Learning, here are some readily available resources. Numerous books and scholarly articles also address this topic.

  • Schoolcraft College Office of Curriculum & Assessment, Curriculum Development Workbook, 2011.
    This workbook is geared to assist faculty and administrators as they develop their courses and programs. It explains the Exit Learning Outcomes Matrices (ELOM) and delves into the application of Bloom’s Taxonomy when creating curriculum and assessments. It can also be found in the Curriculum and Assessment section of the 2011-2012 Curriculum Committee Handbook.
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy Verb List
    This is the verb list used in Schoolcraft’s Performance Based Learning Initiative.
  • Hibbard, K.M. Teacher’s Guide to Performance-Based Learning and Assessment.
    This is a fully online multi-chapter review of Performance Based Learning. Although heavily on K-12 education, the concepts and explanations are readily adaptable to the Community College environment.
  • League for Innovation in the Community College. An Assessment Framework for the Community College.
    Although focusing primarily on assessment, this paper talks about performance based learning and performance based learning tasks.
  • Nickel, R. and Osborn, L. WIDS and Performance Based Learning.
    This paper examines the philosophy of the PBL and how it is incorporated in the Worldwide Instructional Design System. It also examines issues of academic freedom, higher order thinking skills and expectations for students.
  • Mazur, Eric Memorization or understanding: are we teaching the right thing?
    This is a videotaped lecture by Harvard professor, Eric Mazur. He examines the practices of assessment and peer teaching in his classroom.

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