Reflecting on My Class Performance Task vs. Exam Content Tactic

A photo of me with my former college students who are now my co-teachers in Senior High School.

For lack of better terms, what I meant with the title of this eJournal is a style which I–together with some colleagues–have operated with in our Senior High School social science subjects. This focuses more on the instructional design aspect of the subjects we are teaching.


I believe that if we want to develop Higher-Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), we must involve students in performance tasks where they could apply what they learned in its actual, practical context or at least give them the opportunity to elaborate their informed ideas–whether through recitation or essay–with the necessary references cited somehow.


NOTE: Before I go on further, it must be noted that the grading system for Senior High School gives Performance Task (PT) a total of 50% of the total grade, while exam and other written works (e.g. quizzes) are given only 25% for each for all core subjects. For non-core subjects, PT is given 45%, written works are allotted 25%, and exams comprise 30% of the total grade. In any case, there is much weight on the performance task.


Last year, in the first semester that our educational institution operated Senior High School, we had students write papers, journals, and even essays in both quizzes, performance tasks, and exams.


Although we have seen that this is beneficial for students to elaborate their perspectives, we found that this can be really tiring, especially for teachers like us who were used to teach in college–where there are less forms and documentations to consider for almost every aspect of our work, both inside and outside the classroom. Add to this, the burden of the possibilities that a student may be given a failing grade due to poor references used, improper citation, poor spelling, and poor grammar–which, at times, affect the substantial meaning of the concepts they wish to convey. There was also a time when the references some students used were hoax or fake news.


This is why some of us created instructional design schemes.


As for the essay work, some of us chose to just do recitation instead. This would be counted as performance task. However, it must be noted that there are some subjects that cannot completely avoid having students pass essays (e.g. psychology-related subjects can still require weekly journals). Yet, there are subjects where the objectives of an essay can better be done through recitation or the passing of student-made videos. This would somehow help teachers grade their works better and faster. Why? Because the idea of coming across wrong spellings (even for words that sound sort of similarly but are spelled differently and also do not mean the same thing, for example, the words “wander” and “wonder”), substantial grammatical errors, and poor citations can be easily corrected or avoided during in-class recitations, role play, or report. These can also be done in groups.


Also, in our school, some teachers were allowed to have 50% of an exam derived from a performance task the students would do in full knowledge that what they are doing is part of the exam. Instead of having essays, a teacher did individual verbal examinations. Another teacher also had students perform a mini-produced role play, theatrical performance, or skit for his subjects on religion and arts.


As for the substitute for practical-actual in context performance tasks, I am not sure as to how exactly they can be substituted, especially if the situation requires students to go off-campus if there are no in-campus equipment or facility to do the performance task, however the school administrators are disposed to usually not approve off-campus curricular activities. This is quite sad, especially for passionate social science teacher like me who can suggest so many off-campus activities or trips students can visit, interview, and the likes for them to appreciate culture, society, and politics even more. However, I could not do everything I wish – even the mere going to the National Museum, which is one jeepney ride away from our school, if administrators would keep on not approving my off-campus activities. In fact, the Malacanang Palace that offers free Presidential Museum and Library tours on a first-come-first-served basis is more accessible and near to our school, however even that did not push through when I recommended it.


I wrote all of those to convey that there can be many pedagogies used to develop HOTS for students. However, I am still wondering if essay can actually be avoided, in Senior High School, if we can due to the demands of the workload of teachers. It’s weightier than the workload of college professors. The stress and pressure experienced by Senior High teachers like me, I think, can affect as to how we grade students’ activities. I know it may be hard to lessen the forms, because even those forms achieve a pedagogical and legal objective.


I am just saying that I believe that there can be several ways to develop the critical/analytical thinking skills of students. It’s just that, since Senior High School is new, and I am more comfortable teaching in college, I feel that I have to make a scheme as to how to let the students develop HOTS as I also note and attend to my other responsibilities as a teacher, aside from teaching.


I wrote this eJournal also to solicit the thoughts and opinions of my classmates here in UPOU as I reflect on the pros and cons of the instructional design schemes that I am inclined to do.


Moreover, all of these make me realize that I do need a mentor, I do need to continue studying for me to become a better teacher, and I may need to join professional organizations to help me gain fresh insights regarding the content and application of what I teach in different contexts and given the limited resources and opportunities available for me and my students.


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