The Benefits of Progress Monitoring Our Students
Theresa London Cooper
Progress monitoring has always been a best practice in teaching and learning. However, in an era of accountability ongoing, consistent progress monitoring is an essential component to determine the effectiveness of instruction and student learning. It is critical that we have routines for monitoring students’ growth and achievement that will support appropriate instruction. How do we know whether or not our instruction and our interventions are supporting student growth and learning? Progress monitoring helps us answer this question.
As never before, we must learn to become comfortable with identifying useful data collecting and analyzing it to guide our instruction to meet the needs of our students. (We must be data users, not just data collectors.) For example, if we are teaching a particular comprehension strategy to improve our students’ understanding of text, we must check in (progress monitor) to determine whether or not our methods of instruction are working. We may decide to use a running record, conduct one-to-one conferences and/or have the student share strategies used during their independent reading as ways to monitor progress. A useful rule of thumb to determine whether or not our methods are effective is to collect a minimum of three consistent findings over time. Thereafter, we decide to keep or abandon our approaches.
Let’s apply this thinking to our running record example. If after administering and analyzing three running records you see no change in the student’s ability to use the strategy taught, you will conclude that your approaches have not been effective and you must think of others ways to reach the student. If the student is using the strategy well, then you will continue the approach and give the student additional opportunities to practice.
Another important consideration is the frequency with which to monitor student progress. We want to afford the student enough time to master the strategy, which means we don’t want the monitoring intervals to be too close together. At the same time, if the strategy is not working we want to discontinue it as soon as possible and replace it with methods that do work. This means you don’t want the monitoring intervals to be too far apart.
As teachers, we work hard and we want to see the fruit of our labor. Without effective progress monitoring, we cannot determine whether or not our methods are working. Therefore, it is essential to think about how we monitor our students’ progress, how often we monitor, and how we use our findings to plan instruction so students learn and master the appropriate skills and strategies.
And let us remember that progress monitoring is best implemented in a very realistic and sensible manner that can be sustained by the teacher. Using completed homework, class tests, learning/work station products, student share out time, oral presentations, conferences and portfolios, to name a few, will provide you with the pulse of your students. And only you, as the classroom teacher, the professional, can determine which data and routines best serve you and your students for teaching and learning.
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