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  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 information covered in a course, so it can be applied across different content areas and instructional levels. 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 course content be changed, nor does it dictate how a 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 and skills. This shift has been occurring as course competencies are written using performance verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy at the level of "applying" or higher. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a multi-tiered model of classifying levels of complexity in thinking and performing, and is used to guide the creation of course competencies. There are 3-6 competencies developed for every credit hour associated with a course. Course level instruction and assessment are directly aligned with these competencies.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Course level work is the foundation used to support the performance based learning evaluation at the course level using course competencies, at the program level using program outcomes, and at the institution level using Core Abilities. Departments are able to create an action plan to best meet the student and departmental needs, using the data collected in the evaluations to guide them. The continuous quality improvement aspect of performance based learning is embedded within the process and allows all levels of instruction and assessment to support each other. The Operations, Curriculum, and Assessment team is available to assist faculty members and Instructional Administrators, as needed, as they move through these processes.

Resources for Faculty

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