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Why Should Students Track Their Own Progress?

Why Should Students Track Their Own Progress?

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, you will learn why students should track their own progress and classroom strategies that can be used to promote student reflection and tracking of progress.

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In this tutorial, we'll consider the question, why should students track their own progress? We'll begin by identifying the benefits of self-tracking, and then we'll discuss several self-tracking formats that you might consider implementing. Finally, we'll discuss some various self-assessment and tracking tools that are available. Let's get started.

Let's begin by identifying the benefits of self-tracking. Research tells us that when teachers track student formative assessment data using a visual display, this can equate to a 26% gain in student achievement. Interestingly, when students are involved in tracking their own formative assessment data in a visual display, this can result in a 32% gain in student achievement.

The theory is that self-tracking helps students to take ownership of their own learning. It can increase their intrinsic motivation, and this can help them to perform better on high stakes tests. It can also help them to set goals, and to become more self-directed learners. So with this research-backed benefit of implementing student self-tracking, let's take a look at some various formats that this self-tracking might take.

One example is journals or learning logs. Using a journal or a learning log, students have an opportunity to reflect on what they've learned every single day in class. When you're implementing learning logs or journals, you should promote frequent use and review of these journals. This helps students to reflect on their progress that they've made overall, towards the intended competencies or learning goals.

Another option for self-tracking is the use of a portfolio. When you're implementing portfolios, students would select pieces of work, maybe every week or once every unit, that they would include in these portfolios. And then later on, you can encourage them to review their past work, and this helps them to see the progress that they've made. They can see how much more complex their current work is, than the previous work. Or they can see how refined their work has become.

Yet another option is to use student data-tracking binders. The idea here is that, each student has his or her own binder in which they have indicated their established learning targets, and then they track their assessment scores, maybe using pre-assessment and post-assessment graphs, and they might also incorporate various scoring rubrics from along their learning path. If you're implementing any of these self-tracking formats, you want to remember that it's probably better to have students track their progress individually and privately. We don't want to post all of this individual learning information where everyone can see all of this private data.

So regardless of what format you're going to have students use to track their own progress, here are just some other various student-centered self-assessment and tracking tools that you might consider using. First is a plus-minus delta chart. Remember, a plus-minus delta chart includes three columns. A plus column where students indicate what is working well, a minus column where students indicate what is not working, and then a delta chart where students can brainstorm possible ideas for changes that they could make.

You can use a plus-minus delta chart really at any point during instruction. Students could reflect on a particular lesson, they could reflect on the work that they did on a project, or they could provide helpful feedback data for you as the teacher, regarding your classroom procedures.

Another potentially helpful tool is a graph or consensogram. You can have students graph information, like their level of understanding on a continuum, or graph their progress towards a learning goal. You can have them track their progress before and after the completion of a particular task. Using a graph or a consensogram can be really motivating for students because they can see the line of progress moving in that positive direction.

Some data that you can collect using a graph or a consensogram that would actually be helpful both for students and for you as the teacher, would be to assess students' comfort levels about a particular piece of content. So this is an interesting way to approach how students are feeling about a particular skill.

A number of years ago, I had access to a classroom set of student clickers. And each day that students entered the classroom when we were having a test, they knew to look on the board for their warm-up exercise which on test day, would be to use the clicker to indicate their confidence level for the upcoming test. This was a really neat way for me to see where students were at, and also just for students to see, sort of, what the overall feeling of the class was, and what the overall confidence level was for the upcoming assessment.

You might also consider using surveys with your students. You can use a survey to collect information about just about any topic. You can use a survey to collect data about student needs, or student perceptions. Remember, students don't even need to write out their survey responses.

You could include informal class discussions, or individual discussions in the survey data. You could administer informal polls, even something like the thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs to the side quick formative assessment or quick check in the middle of a lesson could be considered a survey, as you are helping students to assess how they are feeling about the current concept or skill. And remember, this also provides you, as the teacher, with valuable information.

One final example of a tool that you might want to implement, is an action plan. You can have students create action plans either individually or as a whole class, that would identify the tasks that students need to complete in order to reach their learning goals. In an action plan, we want students to designate who is going to be responsible for completing each of the tasks. An action plan should also include any specific timelines or deadlines. They should include a list of resources that are going to be needed in order to complete the task. And they should also list any specific ways in which progress is going to be monitored.

A great way to implement an action plan is at the beginning of the unit, when you introduce the learning goals that are going to be approached during this unit. Students could take some time to reflect on how they want to approach each of those individual learning goals. They can list what specific resources they think they're going to need, as they work through these goals. And they can indicate whether they feel that they will be able to stick to the timeline that the rest of the class is indicating, or whether they might feel that they need some additional time, or that they might be able to work through the skills more quickly. This can be, again, really valuable information not only for the student, but also for you, as a teacher.

So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Can you think of examples from your own classroom, and from your experiences with your own students, of where the use of journals, or learning logs, or portfolios, or student data-tracking binders could have been helpful in helping your students to make progress towards their learning goals?

As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning, and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.

Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "Why Should Students Track Their Own Progress?"

(00:00 - 00:23) Introduction

(00:24 - 01:11) Benefits of Self-Tracking

(01:12 - 02:48) Self-Tracking Formats

(02:49 - 07:02) Self-Assessment and Tracking Tools

(07:03 - 07:44) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Student Data Binder 

This page on The Curriculum Corner website offers a clear explanation of the use of student data binders. In addition, the site has downloadable templates that teachers are able to use to build their student data binders.

Portfolios for Student Growth

This useful page on the Gallaudet University site provides a clear overview on using student portfolios to improve student achievement. The site provides examples, how-tos, and templates for elementary, middle, and high school students.