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THE APPLIED LEARNING PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

There are five performance standards for Applied Learning:

Problem Solving;
Communication Tools and Techniques;
Information Tools and Techniques;
Learning and Self-management Tools and Techniques;
Tools and Techniques for Working with Others.


Problem Solving
Apply problem-solving strategies in purposeful ways, both in situations where the problem and desirable solutions are clearly evident and in situations requiring a creative approach to achieve an outcome.

Problem solving is the centerpiece of the standards. The performance description defines problem solving projects focused on productive activity and organized around three kinds of problems:
• Problems to do with designing new “things” to meet identified needs.
• Problems to do with making existing things work more effectively.
• Problems to do with planning and organizing events and activities.

Many of the problems that people tackle in their everyday life can be categorized into one of these three kinds of problems. The three kinds of problems are the same for elementary school, middle school, and high school. The performance description defines them as follows.

a Design a product, service or system in which the student identifies needs that could be met by a new product, service or system and creates solutions for meeting them;

b Improve a system in which the student develops an understanding of the way systems of people, machines and processes work; troubleshoots problems in their operation and devises strategies for making them work better;

c Plan and organize an event or activity in which the student takes responsibility for all aspects of planning and organizing an event or activity from concept to completion.

Each kind of problem solving is followed by a set of criteria, or elements, that reflect the kinds of considerations that need to be taken into account in working towards an effective solution to that kind of problem. These criteria become progressively more demanding from elementary school to high school.


The Tools and Techniques Standards
The four “tools and techniques” standards are designed to work in concert with the Problem Solving standard. Each of these standards describes tools and techniques that are needed for success in tackling problems of the kinds outlined above. The capacities defined by these standards are difficult to pin down. They can take many forms and be evidenced in many different ways. Sometimes they are described in terms of general dispositions that render them difficult to assess in any credible way. In an effort to give these capacities more concrete meaning, each of the tools and techniques standards focuses on a selection of the ways by which people demonstrate use of the relevant tools and techniques. As far as possible, each of the selected uses of the tools and techniques is described in terms of a work product or performance through which students can provide evidence of their achievement.


Communication Tools and Techniques
Communicate information and ideas in ways that are appropriate to the purpose and audience through spoken, written and graphic means of expression.

This standard has three parts, each focusing on a different kind of communication. a focuses on the ability to make an oral presentation about project plans or findings. The expectations for this part of the standard grow in complexity from elementary to high school, especially with respect to the kind of audience with whom students should be able to communicate effectively.

There is some overlap between a and c of the Language Arts performance standards, which also asks for an oral presentation. The difference between them is the specification of audience focus in a. Thus, oral presentations that meet the requirements of a would usually satisfy the expectations of c; however, the reverse would not necessarily be the case.

b focuses on effective written communication. In this part of the Communication Tool and Techniques standards the expectations grow in demand from the production of simple correspondence at the elementary school level to the writing of project proposals and reports at the high school level. It is worth noting that proposals and reports may take different forms according to their context. The report produced for the Caring for Your Campus Lawn project, for example, is in the form of a memorandum.

c focuses on communicating effectively in different kinds of formats. At the elementary school level the focus is on posters, pamphlets and brochures. At the middle school level, the focus is on publishing information in several different formats, such as overhead transparencies and handouts. At the high school level, this part of the standard asks for a multi-media presentation.


Information Tools and Techniques
Use information-gathering techniques, analyze and evaluate information, and use information technology to assist in collecting, analyzing, organizing, and presenting information.

This standard has two facets: information gathering and use of information technology.

a focuses on information gathering. This part of the Information Tools and Techniques standard can be summarized by the word “research.” It can also be distinguished among all the parts of the tools and techniques standards as an essential tool and technique for virtually any problem-solving endeavor. The performance description for this part of the standard is also notable for being almost the same at all three levels (elementary, middle, and high). The only difference is an expectation for more evidence of analysis of information at the middle and high school levels compared with elementary school.

b focuses on the use of information technology. In recognition of the differences between schools in students’ access to the tools of information technology, this part of the Information Tools and Techniques standard is described broadly at the elementary and middle school levels in terms of two expectations. These are that students use information technology to acquire information and to produce materials. At the high school level, these expectations are detailed more specifically. At this level, use of information technology is divided into four parts each focused on the use of different kinds of tools: use of on-line sources to gather and exchange information, use of word-processing software, use of database software, and use of spreadsheet software.

Learning and Self-management Tools and Techniques
Manage and direct one’s own learning.

This standard focuses on a crucial part of the capabilities people need to be productive members of society. There are many tools and techniques that contribute to the ability to manage and direct one’s own learning. This standard focuses on three of them: learning from models, managing one’s own work activities, and evaluating one’s own work.

a is about the practice of tackling new tasks by first searching out models from which to work. Depending on the task, a model might be a person or a “thing.” An experienced person can provide a model for developing one’s own effective practice. A brochure produced for a different but related purpose can provide a model from which to develop a brochure to suit one’s own purpose. Using models is an important tool for developing the capacity to manage and direct one’s own learning—and work. It possibly ranks with a as an essential tool and technique for an effective problem-solving endeavor.

The description of this part of the Learning and Self-management Tool and Techniques standard is the same at each of the three levels. The criteria focus on selection of an appropriate model, analysis of its features and qualities, and use of that information to perform the relevant task.

b is about managing one’s work activities. At the elementary level this part of the standard focuses on establishing ways of organizing work materials in a manner that helps to get the work done. At the middle school level, the focus shifts to scheduling and establishing priorities and deadlines. This focus intensifies at the high school level to concentrate on adjusting priorities and schedules to meet changing demands.

c is about taking responsibility for the evaluation of one’s own work. At the core of this part of the standard is the idea of treating evaluation of one’s work as an essential and ongoing part of getting the work done. At the elementary level, the focus is on students’ establishing and using criteria to evaluate the results of their work. At the middle school, the focus shifts to goal setting and the review of progress in meeting goals. At the high school level, the demands expand to include the expectation of students’ inviting and responding to advice and criticism of their work by others.


Tools and Techniques for Working With Others
Work with others to achieve a shared goal, help other people to learn on-the-job, and respond effectively to the needs of a client.

Working with others covers a broad spectrum of activities. This standard focuses on three ways of viewing the demands of working effectively with other people: working on a team, attending to the learning needs of another person, and striving to meet the needs of a client for one’s work.

a is about teamwork. The elements of this part of the standard are similar at each level from elementary to high school, though the demands grow in complexity.

b focuses on helping other people learn. At the elementary level this is expressed in terms of showing or explaining something clearly enough for someone else to be able to do it. There is an obvious link here to the expectations for the narrative procedure (d) among the kinds of writing expected in the Language Arts performance standards. This is one of the ways that students can use to demonstrate their achievement of b. At the middle school level, the focus is on coaching and tutoring. At the high school level, the emphasis is on providing the training and mentoring needed to help someone else join an ongoing work activity.

c focuses on responding effectively to the needs of a client. The essence of this part of the standard is negotiation—from the client’s commissioning of a piece of work to an assessment of what can be achieved to the production of the outcome and the extent to which it satisfies the client’s initial request. Like the teamwork part of Working With Others, the description of this part of the standard is essentially the same from elementary to high school though the expectations for monitoring client satisfaction with progress and results grow in demand across the grade levels.


Applied Learning Projects: How the Applied Learning Standards fit together
The key to the effective use of the tools and techniques described in - is the capacity to harness them in a purposeful and integrated way in order to complete a meaningful task. And that is also the way they are best learned rather than taken out of context and treated in a piecemeal way as skills for their own sake. Applied Learning projects are the vehicle for helping students develop the kinds of abilities that are expected by the Applied Learning standards and for demonstrating their achievements.

An Applied Learning project starts with a problem to be solved. The problem might arise spontaneously from questions or interests expressed by the students or it might emerge from an activity planned by the teacher.

The kind of problem determines which part of the Problem Solving standard is relevant to the project. Some problems have characteristics of more than one of the kinds of problem solving but it is usually both possible and more helpful to focus attention on one kind of problem solving in working on a particular project.

Inherent in the problem is a content focus and thus an opportunity for students to learn important subject content and/or to apply what they already know and reinforce their knowledge. Many projects contain the opportunity to work towards the achievement of expectations relevant to the Language Arts performance standards. Applied Learning projects can also relate to important content in Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and the Arts and Technology.

Solving the problem is likely to demand some of the tools and techniques of communication, information, learning and self-management and working with others that are set out in the Tools and Techniques standards. Many problems offer the possibility of drawing on all of those tools and techniques. However, it is unlikely that any one project will allow students to develop their abilities in relation to all of the tools and techniques, let alone allow them to demonstrate their achievement of them all. In projects that lead to stronger products in student achievement, learning focuses on the abilities related to one of the kinds of problem solving and a limited selection of the tools and techniques. The teacher can make this selection from the outset, taking into account the possibilities presented by the project focus and the students’ previous experience and accomplishments. Over time, students should have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate their abilities in relation to all of the Applied Learning standards.