Volume 32, No. 5: Conference Session Highlights

Understanding the Benefits of Performance-Based Learning

Yvonne Blackshear, Professor, Texas State Technical College, Brownwood, TX

“Performance-based learning (PBL) 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” (Schoolcraft). So what exactly does this mean for learners? What does this mean for instructors? Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits PBL offers both stakeholders.

Like many others, I am one of those learners that, when ready, wants to move on as quickly as possible. No sense in dwelling on a topic I’m already proficient in deploying, right? Well, that’s one of the most important benefits of PBL for students! With PBL, once the learner masters a topic, they can quickly move on to the next. Doing so aids in motivating the student to keep on learning. It offers a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. On the other hand, if a student is struggling with a topic, they can spend as much time as needed in order to master the concept. At the same time, this affords the instructor the ability to concentrate on those topic areas where students are struggling and lends an opportunity to engage with the learner to identify how they could best master the material.

Another key benefit of PBL is flexibility. Life happens to each of us on a daily basis and sometimes we have four hours a day to work on something, at other times it may be four minutes. PBL allows both the student and instructor the flexibility to learn on their own schedule. Instructional content or material can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces that both allows the student to quickly “digest” the content and lends itself to being able to be consumed within short periods of time. Instead of spending fifteen minutes playing a game, a student could spend those 15 minutes reviewing content. At the same time, instructors are able to offer encouragement to the student in helping them move through the material at a rate that fits the student’s schedule.

A final benefit of performance-based learning is that instructors have more information about the learning needs of their students and can thereby modify learning strategies to better facilitate student strengths and weaknesses. They also allow students to assess their own learning progress and reflect on their own skill sets.

There are many additional benefits to performance-based learning. Overall, performance-based learning centers on the student, their needs, their learning style, and their mastery and development of skills. The benefits of integrating performance-based learning offer each stakeholder invaluable opportunities for growth and knowledge.

Contact the author at yrblackshear@tstc.edu.