How to Measure Student Progress

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A number of coloured pencils of different lengths on a white background. Above the pencils, text reads "How to measure student progress".
Published on: July 11, 2018 Expected Reading Time: 2 mins

Different ways of monitoring student progress

Obviously, we want our students to progress in our classroom. We want them to learn. The science of measuring such progress is led by data and the movement through grades of achievement. As teachers, we face the problem of roller coaster learning – where progress goes up and down and spirals around – this affects the reliability of such data.

The go-to answer for monitoring students' progress may be obvious to some. Employ a student progress tracker and monitor data closely, right? Wrong. This is likely to be unhelpful and inconclusive. This is especially true in the short-term of a single lesson – where no perceivable shift in data will ever occur. The need for data driven proof of progress leads to the over assessment of students, with schools constantly pushing for more tests. Unfortunately this puts more and more pressure on the students, which is not the desired outcome at all.

Here are some alternative ways of monitoring student progress, which do not involve data and do not require a formal assessment by way of a test:

  1. Start the lesson demonstrating what they do not yet know. Ask students to write a paragraph about X. Then, through the course of the lesson help them understand X. Ask them to write the paragraph again and highlight all the additional points they were able to make. You can then clearly see where any development of their knowledge has been made.
  2. Set a discussion activity at the end of a period of learning. Spend 5 minutes sat with each group as they work through the discussion points. Ask students questions if necessary. Listening to the discussion and the answers to the questions will help reveal progress.
  3. Ask students, through a system of cards (red, yellow green), or by holding up fingers (1 – 5 digits), to quickly tell you how confident they feel. You may even want to go for the simple thumbs up/ thumbs down approach.
  4. Talk to your students as they are leaving the classroom – Talk to anyone you worry has not made progress that lesson due to lack of visible input. Check to see if they were unclear on the lesson objectives or if they were just being a little lazy.
  5. Set up interim activities that you can mark and comment on as they go along – do not wait for an end assessment. Give gradual feedback on smaller tasks that will help you see how their knowledge is generally progressing.
  6. When marking their work, ask students to complete a task that responds to the area most in need of improvement. The response should be in the form of a mini-activity that targets the specific areas that is evidently unclear to them. Move around the room and tick mark this activity as they work to see if they have identified the are and made some small changes.

When a senior member of staff walks in your room to assess your lesson they will look at three things: what is on your board, what is in the books and what the body language of the students show. As this is the case, it should be how student progress is assessed the majority of the time. Let’s leave data for special and rare occasions.

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