By Carla Moore
For years, we’ve had a serious problem in education. The heavy emphasis on high-stakes testing has prevented teachers from getting timely, actionable evidence of student learning. Ultimately, when a test score, issued after a student is no longer in a given classroom, indicates that the student did not meet the expectations of the standards, it’s too late for the classroom teacher to provide any additional support or do anything about it.
Fortunately, the tide is changing. Schools are focusing on short-cycle formative assessment to monitor student progress throughout the course of each and every lesson. This way, teachers can stay informed about who’s learning and who may need additional help before the end of the lesson—and before the first quiz or test.
Dr. Dylan Wiliam has said, “Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended outcomes.”
Student monitoring also helps to clear up misconceptions, so learners don’t go home and rehearse errors in their homework. The closer to instruction the feedback and adjustments occur, the more likely students will reach the intended goals of the lesson. Over the year, this brings about student mastery of the standards.
This impactful teacher practice helps teachers know how their students are progressing on a daily basis, allowing opportunities to provide extra support if needed. The possibilities for implementation are endless, but here are five monitoring techniques that teachers are using to deepen student learning:
1) Entrance and Exit Tickets
As students arrive and/or leave the classroom, require them to demonstrate mastery of key parts of the content. For example, a math teacher’s entrance or exit ticket could consist of three problems of varied complexity, giving the teacher a clear picture of each student’s level of understanding, as well as where his or her understanding may have been altered.
2) Student Reflection
Have students communicate what they know, what has helped them learn, and what they’re still unclear about. This gives educators clear insight so they can make adjustments and plan next steps in their teaching. It also gives them opportunities to help students revise their knowledge and clear areas of confusion. Best of all, they now know what part of their instruction was most helpful to students.
3) Revising Knowledge
To deepen their knowledge, students must be able to identify what they know about the critical content and recognize how their understanding has evolved. A myriad of activities can be done in small groups to get students discussing their own learning processes and solidifying the revised knowledge in their minds.
4) Accountable Answers
Effective student monitoring provides more than a snapshot of how the majority of the class seems to be doing. When teachers require all students to respond to a question, they can effectively gauge each learner’s understanding. They can quickly display responses on whiteboards or vote anonymously. You may even have them walk to the a corner of the room that corresponds with their responses, essentially “voting with their feet.”
Another good way to help students grasp their learning targets is by having them summarize what they’ve learned. This immediately shows teachers which students need an adjustment in instruction. It can be as simple as asking students to summarize in quick phrases or a teacher might spontaneously have them provide descriptors for a particular character, person, or concept from the lesson.
For more about minute-by-minute, day-by-day student monitoring, visit Learning Sciences International. We’ve developed the LSI Standards Tracker and a wide array of services and professional development opportunities to help teachers quickly and easily monitor student progress. You may also want to check out Essentials for Standards-Driven Classrooms, which Carla Moore co-wrote with Michael D. Toth and Robert J. Marzano.
An experienced professional developer, literacy coach, teacher, and administrator, Carla Moore, MSEd, is a National Practice Leader for Curriculum and a member of the research and development team for Learning Sciences International (LSI). Carla leads a team of curriculum experts in developing, facilitating, and helping transform districts and states on standards-aligned curriculum systems. She is nationally recognized for her commitment to K–12 education.