Using Performance Support to Provide Assistance after a Workshop

Written by Amanda Roth and Dominique Turnbow

What is performance support?

Have you ever been to a great workshop or training session and felt like you are capable of doing a newly learned task or activity. Then when you sit down to do the task, you don’t quite remember where to start? Do you think it’s likely that your students are experiencing the same thing after a library workshop? One way to address this issue is through the use of a performance support tool. Performance support provides “just in time” instruction that informs and guides someone so they can complete a task. Performance support tools address an immediate need. Here are a few examples:

  • Step by step instructions (either verbal or pictorial)
  • Decision trees
  • How-to videos or animated images

Here are some library related examples:

  • Step by step instructions on how-to use a database
  • A decision tree helping students determine when to use a citation
  • A video on how-to use UC-eLinks to get full-text articles

Notice that performance support tools are created to help an individual perform a task. To help solidify this idea, here are a few library related examples of materials that are not performance support. Information is provided; but there is not an associated task.

  • A list of databases
  • An image of the publication process explaining primary, secondary and tertiary sources
  • A link to Ask a Librarian

When should I use performance support?

Connie Malamed (aka the eLearning Coach) provides guidelines for when to use performance support instead of relying on instruction. Performance support tools are best used to help with the limitations of memory and are best used when an activity occurs infrequently, when a process is complex, involves many steps, or has many attributes when there is little time or few resources to devote to it and especially for English as a second language (ESL) learners. By adding performance support tools to your LibGuides or as handouts, you are providing the refresher instruction that a student needs after class that will assist assisting them at their time of need.

Another reason to use performance support is as a replacement for information that is not covered in the classroom. For example, in an undergraduate database searching class, we could spend more time on the thought process behind pre-search activities like formulating a research question and selecting key words and less time on the mechanics of how to get an article. In this case, you could provide a link to our UC-Links video on a LibGuide or course web site and refer students there when they are ready to obtain the full-text.

How do I determine when to use performance support or instruction?

It all starts with well-written learning outcomes. Imagine how you are going to teach the outcome. Do you need to explain concepts? Is it procedural? Your goal here is to categorize them. For example, the outcome below is procedural.

“Given a list of article databases with descriptions recommended for their course topics, students will be able to identify at least two that are relevant to their topic”

In order to complete this task, students would:

  1. Go to the course guide with the list of article databases.
  2. Read the descriptions for each database.
  3. Select two that are most relevant.

While you can easily provide five to ten minutes in your workshop for students to do this, it is also possible to have a performance support tool (i.e. written instructions on the course guide or an animated image) for students to consult when they are ready to do this. You can then use this valuable in-class time to address learning outcomes that are more conceptual in nature, which may be more difficult to teach using performance support tool.

Above all, performance support should only be used to help students complete a discreet task. Just because the information is provided on a LibGuide or through a tutorial or video does not make it performance support. I could just be online instruction.

The benefit of adding performance support tools to your instructional tool kit is that it extends your reach beyond the classroom and provides targeted educational support when it is needed.

If you would like us to help you determine if you should use performance support tool, or help creating one, contact us via our consultation form.