Best Ways to Monitor Student Progress

Aug 2, 2019 by

Without change, there is no progress. Most teachers can attest to the fact that the students they welcome on day one are not the students they send off to the next grade at the end of the school year. Not only do students grow and develop intellectually over those 180 days, but also personally, mentally, and emotionally. But how can a teacher know if their students are on target for success? How can they be sure that they’ve instilled all the skills, lessons, and basic knowledge required to move onto the next level? While there’s no guarantees, there are plenty of tools available to assess and monitor this progression. Keep reading to discover some of the best ways to monitor student progress and ensure your class is on track for success.


Evaluations are one of the easiest and best ways to gauge how a student is progressing throughout the year. This is beneficial not only for educators, but for the students themselves. It helps them see their progression and improvement. This boosts self-confidence and makes them excited about the learning process. Evaluations with positive results prevents students from pegging themselves as “bad” or “stupid”. They can clearly see, in black and white, how much they’ve improved and how well they’re doing. As the instructor, evaluations allow you to determine how well the student is absorbing and applying classroom lessons and to identify areas where the student needs additional help or support. This is essential, especially for classrooms containing a multitude of different learners. There are several different ways to perform evaluations including broad testing on a specific skill or subject, small group work, and examining multiple assignment scores and performance. 


Often times, observing students in their “natural habitat” without pressure or judgement is the best way to truly get a picture of their progression. And this is done through classroom observations. There are a few important elements that should be part of every observation. Most importantly, observations need to be unbiased. This means that as the teacher, you can’t inflect previous knowledge about the student into your observation. Your observations should describe the child’s exact behavior, including the things they do and say. You can’t place emotion into your observations. For example, instead of saying “Johnny looks sad”, you would write, “Johnny is frowning. He’s sitting by himself.” The second description is you detailing exactly what you see. While, these behaviors suggest that Johnny is sad or lonely, you aren’t making an assumption. 

One common misconception about observations is that they’re a long, drawn-out process. Observations can be as short as 2-3 minutes. They’re meant to be a small snippet of the child’s day. These moments help you see how the child’s progressing socially and emotionally, including interactions, problem solving skills, and self-regulation. You can also apply observations to skill and curriculum learning. When you give the students a task, how long does it take the child to complete? Do they appear to be struggling? Are they anxious or tense? How many times do they ask for assistance? All of these factors play a role in observing how the student is grasping the current lesson. Be sure to document all observations so that you can revisit them later.

Curriculum Based Testing

Outside of observations, one of the most obvious and simple ways to monitor student progress in terms of the curriculum is by using tests and quizzes. After all, when students progress through the grade levels and eventually enter high school and college, teachers won’t be holding their hands or offering special assistance or support for test taking (not unless the student has an IEP — individualized educational program). Unfortunately, students will need to showcase their knowledge and grasp of the subject area by performing on a test. Offer students several different types of assessments including quizzes, multiple choice tests, essays, and even group projects and presentations. While these are some of the most basic ways to monitor student progress, they’re also some of the most accurate. If a student can’t regurgitate the information taught in the classroom on paper, when the time comes, you may need to adjust your teaching approach. You can’t always adjust the test to the student (as much as you may want to). But you can adjust your teaching approach to help them better perform on curriculum based tests.

Formative Assessments

It’s no surprise that over time, educators have created assessment tools designed specifically to check and monitor student progress. These assessment tools grade students on a multitude of levels, pinpointing strengths and weaknesses. Not only does this help you adjust your teaching approach, but it lets you know if the student is on target for their current age and academic level. Similar to the development of babies, students should be hitting certain milestones throughout their educational years. Before they can move onto the next grade level, students need a mastery of certain skills. And formative assessments help teachers determine where students are on the learning spectrum. With the introduction of technology, computer based assessment tools are some of the most popular. Students can take their test directly on the computer, after which comprehensive results are printed. Most of these results are color-coded and will tell teachers exactly where a student is struggling. This helps you adjust the lessons moving forward and bring each student up to speed. 

Most teachers can agree that students who simply “just show up” in the classroom, with no motivation to learn, can be a challenge. But the same can be said about teachers. A quality instructor needs to do more than simply show up, teach, and expect students to succeed. It’s your job to ensure that your lessons aren’t falling on deaf ears. Are you getting through to them? Are they getting lost in the shuffle? Using these tools to monitor student progress will help both you and your students reach your full potential. 

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