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Skill Development and Assessment

This is an excerpt from Lesson Planning for Skills-Based Health Education Ebook With Web Resource by Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin.

For students to have the confidence and competence to apply skills, we first must take the time to teach them about the skill, demonstrate how the skill looks in action, and provide opportunities for practice and feedback. The following skill development model provides a step-by-step approach to framing each skills-based unit (Benes & Alperin, 2016, p. 29):

  1. Discuss the importance of the skill, its relevance, and its relationship to other learned skills.
  2. Present steps for developing the skill.
  3. Model the skill.
  4. Practice the skill using real-life scenarios.
  5. Provide feedback and reinforcement.

During step 1, we introduce students to the skill, provide a foundation for understanding the skill, and explain why the skill is relevant and meaningful for them. It's often helpful to use the stem "____________ is the ability to . . ." because a skill is something that you are able to do. Here is an example:

Advocacy is the ability to stand up for what one believes and to influence others. When we advocate for healthy behaviors, we are encouraging others to replace unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones, such as not smoking or putting your phone out of reach while driving to prevent you from texting while driving.

Students will be motivated to learn the skill if they understand and buy into why the skill matters to them and why and how their ability to perform the skill effectively will benefit them.

Advocacy is important for students your age because many kids look to their peers for support and as role models. When we advocate for safer cell phone use while driving, we are helping our peers to be healthier in their choices and are creating a safer community. Can you think of other reasons why advocacy is important to you and your peers?

Finally, during this step we explain the educational outcomes for the unit - what students will know and be able to do at the end of the unit.

To do this, we will spend some time practicing being an advocate, and by the end of this unit, you will be able to

  • describe the importance of advocacy on improving our health,
  • consider peer and societal norms to design an advocacy campaign that encourages peers to adopt healthier behaviors, and
  • demonstrate how to influence others by sharing your health-enhancing message with your peers.

For more detail on developing objectives, see chapter 2.

During step 2, you present the steps of the skill or the skill cues. To support skill development, we need to break down the skill into its critical components and then create cues to help students remember the steps. Creating memorable cues can assist students during your course and beyond - especially if you use mnemonics or other strategies to help the skill cues stick with the students. For example, we use the mnemonic skill cue I CARE with advocacy (Benes & Alperin, 2016):

  • Identify a relevant and meaningful issue
  • Create a health-enhancing position or message about the issue that is supported by facts and evidence and is geared toward the audience
  • Act passionately and with conviction
  • Relay your health-enhancing message to your audience
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the advocacy effort

Step 3 is modeling the skill. For each skill, it is important for students to see the skill applied accurately and effectively. To do this, the skill needs to be modeled for or by students. During this step, you want to highlight the application of the skill cues so students can see the cues in action. There are many ways to model the skill - role-play, video clips, excerpts from books, or a guided example with the class. The most important things to remember are that your modeling of the skill is showing students how to apply the skill effectively and that the modeling provides an opportunity for them to identify the skill cues in action.

To introduce you to an advocacy campaign, we will watch a short commercial that aims to persuade drivers to leave the phone in the back seat. Before watching the commercial, you will receive a worksheet with the skill cues listed. During the commercial, you should check off the criteria that the commercial does well. Following the viewing, we will discuss the key points that made the commercial effective.

Step 4 is practice. This step is critical for successful skill development. During this step, students receive opportunities to practice the skill in relevant and realistic situations. As the teacher, you are a guide on the side who provides feedback that will help students perform the skill successfully. Practice should be aligned with educational outcomes identified in step 1.

Whenever possible, providing opportunities for student input and choice during practice can help increase engagement and participation. Students feel more invested in the outcome of their work when it is personalized to them. Also, if you provide practice opportunities within one skill but with different health topics, it will facilitate positive transfer across a variety of situations and settings. We know that transfer is enhanced when learning takes place in multiple contexts. In the skills-based approach, this occurs when students have the opportunity to practice one skill (the focus of the learning) within multiple health topics (the topics are the different contexts). Practice is the step in which students not only can develop their ability to perform the skill effectively but also can increase their self-efficacy in using and applying the skill to see how the skill relates to their lives. To go back to our example,

Let's put our knowledge of effective health advocacy to work. Your task is to work in small groups to create a one- to two-minute commercial advocating for a cause that it is important to you. Remember that you want to apply the skill cues here. You might want to refer to the checklist we used while watching the texting and driving commercial.

In step 5, you evaluate student performance using a summative assessment. The assessment and feedback should align with the educational outcomes presented in step 1 and should measure students' ability to demonstrate proficiency in the skill. Reinforcement refers to helping students see how they will use these skills in their lives. While feedback and reinforcement occur throughout the unit as students work toward understanding the skill, in the final step we want students to demonstrate their learning and to see how their learning carries over into their lives outside of the health classroom. In fact, over the course of your time with students, they will begin to see that every skill you cover in your health class is used nearly every day. The more we reinforce skill application in everyday life, the more our students will become confident and competent in their ability to use each skill to better their health.

We now have the opportunity for everyone to share their advocacy projects and to learn more about causes that are important to people in this class. Each group will introduce its video by sharing the topic the group chose, why it chose the topic, and what makes this topic important for teens to learn about. As we watch the videos, be prepared to provide feedback based on the skill cues. Remember that feedback helps us all improve!

Having students complete authentic, performance-based summative assessments allows you to measure the level of students' skill performance. This form of assessment requires students to demonstrate the skill - this is the performance aspect of performance-based authentic assessment. In authentic assessments, students demonstrate the skills in relevant and meaningful contexts. Provide prompts or tasks that are similar to situations and scenarios that students are currently experiencing or might experience in the near future. To evaluate the assessment, design a rubric that includes the educational outcomes that you identified in step 1. Also, include a measure of student performance of skill cues and consider including criteria related to the health topics covered in the unit. Make sure that the criteria align with the educational outcomes introduced in step 1 and that your practice opportunities help students improve their ability to address the criteria successfully.