Monitoring the Progress of Individual Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

In order to plan instruction for students, teachers must first have a solid idea of student skill level. This lesson explains methods for monitoring and recording the progress of individual students and shows how it is applied in a classroom.

Why Monitor Progress?

Teachers today know the importance of planning instruction. They likely follow guidelines set by districts or individual schools. Within those guidelines are curriculum standards. These instructional guidelines assist teachers in knowing when and how to teach a skill. For instance, teaching two digit addition in second grade or covering earth science concepts in fifth. Within this scope and sequence of overarching content, however, are individual students with unique skills and needs. These strengths and struggles are necessary for teachers to understand so they can plan instruction geared for each student's success.

Progress Monitoring Basics

Ms. Patten is a teacher who understands progress monitoring, or methods of collecting and applying data about student skills to plan instruction. Over the years, Ms. Patten has learned the ropes of progress monitoring and uses techniques that allow her to closely watch each student's growth, or lack of. From this information, she plans instruction that allows individual students to get the material and practice they need. Let's see how this is done.

Ms. Patten starts monitoring her students on the first day of school. Why? As she learns names and personalities, she also gets to know her students as learners. She begins collecting data, information she can use to plan instruction, in two ways - formally and informally.

Formal assessments are those that give specific data points, like test scores or an IQ, that teachers use for a few reasons. They may apply this information as a baseline to compare later scores. They can also look closely at the information gathered from the assessment and plan overarching goals and objectives for each student. For example, David's formal reading test gathered information about his ability to decode and comprehend. Ms. Patten now knows that David has strong decoding skills but is struggling with understanding the main idea in stories. His vocabulary usage score was also low. She can use this information to put David in a group of students working on the same skills, allowing him to learn the necessary strategies to find success.

After baseline testing is complete, the class begins a regular routine of learning. During these times, Ms. Patten also uses informal assessments to monitor student progress. For example, during a guided reading session, Ms. Patten listens to David read and asks questions. She jots down notes about his comprehension strategies, or records using anecdotal notes. Today, David is applying a strategy they worked on earlier in the week, making mental images. However, Ms. Patten notices that David is still unable to discriminate between important and unimportant events in a story. She writes this down in David's folder and makes a note to plan instruction on strategies he can use to make this next step in reading comprehension.

Ms. Patten uses other informal assessments, including observations during discussions or classwork, conversations and discussions, or question and answer time. Monitoring individual students' progress in this way allows each student to grow on their own individual level. David needs help with comprehension, but Susie still struggles to identify words in text. If Ms. Patten taught to the whole group, one of these students could be left out and the other frustrated.

Using Data for Planning

Using and applying data gathered from progress monitoring is an important step. Ms. Patten recognizes the value of keeping records of individual student progress and using them to plan lessons geared for each student's growth. While she has overarching curriculum standards, she is able to create opportunities to reach each student's unique learning level, or the degree at which they currently understand content. She accomplishes this by planning whole group, small group, and individual instruction.

Whole Group Instruction

Most lessons begin and are anchored in whole group instruction, which teaches all students the same content at the same time. Today she taught a lesson on fractions. She defined both numerator and denominator, and showed students what a fraction looks like. She gave some examples of fractions and drew a circle on the board, then demonstrated how to make one half and one fourth.

Before beginning the fractions unit, Ms. Patten administered a formal assessment that gave her information about her students' current level of understanding. She knows Frank and Hazel need more support with basic concepts, but Tom and Patrick already have a solid understanding. She teaches the whole group basic skills, and then breaks the students up into small groups for individual practice.

Small Group Instruction

Ms. Patten uses the data from the initial assessment on fractions to plan small group instruction, or work with a few students on a specific skill. She plans to work with Frank, Hazel, and a few other students to supply more information about fractions and give them specific practice on skills they lack. Students who are on level will practice the content from today's lesson, while advanced students like Tom and Patrick will work with more challenging content.

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