Sample Performance Tasks



Level 1: Grades K-2

Sample Performance Task

There are different theories as to why dinosaurs became extinct. Your class is in charge of teaching other students about how dinosaurs may have become extinct. What are some of the reasons you have heard or read about that try to explain what happened to the dinosaurs? What explanations make sense to you? Which ones don’t seem as clear? After comparing various explanations select one which seems to be the most reasonable.

Using information from class, books and other resources, write a report which answers the question "What Happened to the Dinosaurs?" You may develop your own explanation by combining ideas from different sources.

You will be assessed on your ability to develop a explanation for a past event, your ability to interpret data and generalize a conclusion, and your ability to effectively communicate ideas in a variety of ways.

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Investigation
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Effective Communicator
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) I. Understands and applies scientific inquiry and other problem solving strategies

VI. Understands the process and structure of life and that all living things change over time

Key Learnings 1. Knows how to observe, measure, compare, control variables, interpret data and generalize a conclusion.

4. Recognizes that life forms that exist now have not always existed and that some forms of life have become extinct.

SOURCE: Assessing Student Outcomes: Performance Assessment Using the Dimensions of Learning Model. McRel, 1993.



Level 1: Grades K-2

Sample Performance Task

You have always wanted to be an astronaut and today is your chance! Your class is going to visit the Planet Habitat. What skills do you need to be a good observer as an astronaut? Your teacher has explained that you are going to visit Earth for the first time, pretending it is the Planet Habitat. You will be exploring the area around the school to find evidence of animals, birds, and plants. In what areas do these things survive? How is a habitat like a home? How are the habitats alike or different? Describe what the animal or plants need to survive. How does the habitat provide these things?

You will be assessed on your ability to be a good observer, your ability to identify habitats, your ability to describe what makes a habitat, your ability to compare and contrast habitats and your ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Classification
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Effective Communicator
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) III. Understands the implication of science and technology

V. Understands the interdependence of livingthings and their interactions with the non-living components of the environment.

Key Learnings 1. Understands that learning comes from close observation of plants and animals but they should not be mistreated

4. Understands there are many different habitats on the Earth.

SOURCE: Adapted from State of Delaware New Directions Science Curriculum Frameworks, 1995



Level 2: Grades 3-5

Sample Performance Task

You have been studying characteristics that help animals adapt to their environment. After watching Jurassic Park you come up with the idea of creating your own theme park, one in which the animals can survive in different habitats. What might the theme of your park be? What habitats might the park have and why? Your task is to select an animal and figure out a way to improve that animal by changing one or more of its characteristics so that it could adapt even better to its new environment in the theme park. Be ready to explain how your changes would help it to adapt using scientific vocabulary so you could convince somebody to fund your new park.

You will be assessed on your ability to generate ideas to address an unmet need, your ability to identify criteria your idea will address, your ability to make revisions as needed, and your ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways and by using scientific vocabulary.

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Invention
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Effective Communicator
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) II. Understands scientific communication.

VI. Understands the process and structure of life and that all living things change over time.

Key Learnings 1. Uses science vocabulary associated with a unit ofstudy. 2. Understands how adaptations enable different species to help them survive

2. Understands how adaptations enable different species to help them survive.

SOURCE: Assessing Student Outcomes: Performance Assessment Using the Dimensions of Learning Model. McRel, 1993.



Level 2: Grades 3-5

Sample Performance Task

Cousins from Kansas are visiting Maine for the first time. You have planned a special trip to the Scarborough Marsh. While at the marsh you see many types of animals and plant life. In what ways might you classify the types of animals and plants? What are the characteristics used to determine your classification system?

During the tour, the guide noted that animals, birds and plants have adapted to living in this area between the shore and inland. What are some examples that were shared? Using your scientific skills, select a few animals, birds or plant life to observe. Watch the way they eat or note how they grow. What things might you tell your cousin to be careful of so she won’t disturb anything in the marsh?

Using the information you have collected, make inductions as to why the animals, birds and plants you have selected have adapted to the marsh.

You will be assessed on your ability to collect data from observations, your ability to make inductions based on your data, your expertise in not disturbing nature while observing and your ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways.

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Classification
  • Induction
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Effective Communicator
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) III. Understands the implications of science and technology.

VI. Understands the processes and structures of life that all living things change over time.

Key Learnings 1. Understands that learning can come from close observation of plants and animals but that they should not be mistreated.

2. Understands how adaptations enable different species to help them survive.

SOURCE: Adapted Maine’s Curriculum Framework for Mathematics and Science, 1996



Level 3: Grades 6-8

Sample Performance Task

As an Involved Citizen, you want to make people more aware of the consequences of acid rain,
deforestation, or ozone depletion on the Earth’s ecosystems. While researching you realize that there are many points of view and conflicting data. In what ways does the data contradict? Are there areas of agreement? Use your error analysis skills to study the data for misconceptions or errors.

Using the information collected, speculate on what the consequences might be if trends continue and what possible solutions might be. Make sure your solutions take into account the various perspectives of people or agencies involved. Share your findings by preparing a speech, supported by props, to be delivered on Earth Day.

You will be assessed on your ability to collect data, analyze it for similarities and errors, your ability to discern perspectives among points of view, your ability to speculate and your ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways.

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Investigation
  • Error Analysis
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Involved Citizen
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) V. Understands the interdependence of living things and their interactions with the non-living components of the environment.

VIII. Understands the Earth and the process that change it.

Key Learnings 4. Understands how ecosystems change over time.

1. Understands the forces that cause short and long term changes on the Earth.

SOURCE: Adapted from State of Delaware New Directions Science Curriculum Frameworks, 1995



Level 4: Grades 9-12

Sample Performance Task

The school is investigating starting a recycling process to collect various plastic containers. Your job is to demonstrate the feasibility of a recycling process that would separate the various plastics based on density and particle make-up. You will need to identify the structural and compositional features that contribute to the differences among density. How might you research the structural and compositional make-up using the numeric code on the containers? What experiments can you develop to test a hypothesis about the plastics in regards durability, stiffness, and flammability and make recommendations as to which plastics are most recyclable?

You will be assessed on you ability to conduct experimental inquiry, your ability to make decisions and recommendations, and your ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways.

This sample performance task addresses the following:

Complex Thinking Standards
  • Experimental Inquiry
  • Decision Making
Learner Expectation(s)
  • Effective Communicator
  • Knowledgeable Person (see content standard)
  • Versatile Thinker (see complex thinking standard)
K-12 Content Standard(s) I. Understands and applies scientific inquiry and other problem solving strategies.

VII. Understands the structure of matter and the changes it can undergo.

Key Learnings 1. Understands how to test a simple hypothesis.

3. Understands how properties of a material are related to particles which make them up.

SOURCE: Adapted from State of Delaware New Directions Science Curriculum Frameworks, 1995