By Maria J. Treviño

Performance-based instruction/assessment is not a “new trend.”  It has been used widely for many years in languages and other disciplines.  As more research is completed, we find that curriculum continues to evolve in providing better instructional methods that present more realistic situations for students. Performance-based instruction places an emphasis in delivering curriculum in a more practical way that leads to  better student performance.

Performance-based instruction is an approach to providing meaningful tasks for students to accomplish in the classroom.  These tasks are based on real world situations that help students make connections to things with which they are familiar.  In the past, Spanish teachers taught content in isolated situations in which students learned small chunks of material that somehow would be connected later to a larger piece of the puzzle. Many teachers taught how they were taught at the university and what they learned in their practice teaching.

For example, a Spanish teacher might present a lesson on how to conjugate verbs followed by a handout where students complete verb conjugation activities.  Unfortunately, in regular every day life, we do not go around speaking to others using isolated verb conjugations.  Yes, a student needs to know how to conjugate a verb, but is there a better way for the student to employ verb conjugation in a more realistic manner?

Let’s take a look at a couple of samples.  These are shortened versions missing lots of teacher explanation and interaction, but for the purposes of this blog, we imagine that all of the instruction has taken place. Which activity provides a more realistic task?

Example 1: Students complete the following fill-in-the-blank-activity.

  1. Estela ______  una bolsa nueva. (comprar)
  2. Tú ______ a su abuela. (visitar)
  3. Regina y yo _______ a la escuela.  (caminar)
  4. Yo _______ su libro. (buscar)


Example 2:  Students complete the following activity.  Read the paragraph. Through content, determine the correct verb to be used and then determine the correct conjugation.

Word Bank:  comprar     dar       caminar       visitar

Jorge, Tina, y yo _____ a nuestra abuela cada martes. Nosotros _____ a su casa. En la florería, yo le ______ flores a nuestra abuela. Cuando llegamos, Jorge y Tina le _____ las flores y ella está muy contenta.

Many teachers have moved from Example 1 to Example 2, but there are some who have not yet embraced the changes.  In many cases, grammar seems to drive the curriculum rather than focusing on student performance with the language.  Administrators, supervisors, coordinators, and teachers need to be aware that there is a multitude of information and training available that can facilitate transitioning from grammar-based to performance-based instruction/assessment.


María J. Fierro-Treviño

Instructional Specialist, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX. (Retired)

Director for Languages other than English, Texas Education Agency (Retired)

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