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How Progress Monitoring Enhances Mathematical Learning

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  • School Leaders
  • School Leadership

Progress monitoring is a crucial tool for improving the academic outcomes of students with and without disabilities.

40+ years of progress monitoring research conducted

Progress monitoring has value when used across all students

14% learning gains in students who received immediate feedback on their performance

Key takeaways

  • Diverse student populations and limited resources make it difficult to improve overall student achievement. It’s critical to systematically and cost-effectively gather informative data on individual performance and progress — that is, progress monitoring.
  • Teachers can use the information collected on a frequent basis to be aware of every student’s performance and facilitate changes in instruction for students encountering roadblocks in their learning.
  • Coupled with progress monitoring, research shows differentiated instruction -- something which digital technologies could greatly enhance -- is key to meeting the learning needs of and achieving optimal learning outcomes for the diverse student population in today’s classrooms.
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In 2015, the Obama administration introduced the Every Student Succeeds Act, to help ensure schools provide all children with a quality education.

Educators are under pressure to help every student succeed academically. Due to hyper-diverse student populations, they face the challenge of balancing widely varied learning needs while trying to teach each student effectively.

It’s impossible for one teacher to individually document every student’s performance and adequately address their learning gaps and styles. There simply isn’t enough time.

Enter progress monitoring.

Progress monitoring… is a research-validated assessment method that provides data critical for evaluating academic performance across the entire spectrum of student achievement. These data provide teachers with direct evidence to determine whether their students are benefiting from the instructional program. Teachers who use progress-monitoring procedures with students… may better enable low-performing students to meet provisions of adequate yearly progress. However, teachers who implement systematic progress monitoring in general classrooms likely will reap benefits not only for students with identified needs but also for their other students, regardless of their achievement levels. -- Stecker et al., “Using Progress-Monitoring Data to Improve Instructional Decision Making”

Progress monitoring -- especially integrated with technology -- is a viable practice teachers and school administrators can implement to overcome the obstacles mentioned above.

As professor of school psychology, Dr. Edward Shapiro, outlined: progress monitoring can be used to create instructional groups, identify specific skill deficits, screen students for potential early school failure and evaluate the reintegration process for students moving from special to general education settings.

Major progress monitoring benefits

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A growing body of research in publications such as theJournal of Applied School Psychology, International Journal of Serious Games, The Journal of Special Education, Computers & Education and The Psychological Record continues to illustrate how technology in the math classroom can:

  • Provide immediate feedback to both teachers and students
  • Facilitate progress monitoring at individual and class-wide levels
  • Enable data-driven instructional decision-making to improves student learning

Opportunities for immediate feedback

In a study published in School Psychology Review, researchers Jim Ysseldyke and Daniel Bolt examined the effects a progress monitoring system had on math test performance for 2,202 students ranging from 3rd to 10th grade across 24 states.

Over one semester, teachers set curriculum-aligned questions for their students. Students and teachers both received immediate feedback on student performance. Whenever students struggled with certain assignments, the system alerted teachers and provided them with information for differentiated instruction.

Ysseldyke and Bolt found that compared to students who did not experience the progress monitoring system, those who did had significantly more gains in the end-of-semester test. For example, 3rd and 4th grade students who received immediate feedback and differentiated instruction had 14% more gains.

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Data indicates this student has exceeded criteria for performance level and slope, therefore don't necessarily need to continue supplemental intervention and can receive core instruction again.

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Data indicates this student has not met the criteria for performance level. Instead, they've exceeded the criteria for slope. So, they can receive another round of intervention to allow the student to increase their performance level.

Access to real-time data

Progress monitoring technology can provide real-time data that allows for immediate feedback in a way traditional pencil-and-paper assignments cannot. In addition to improving learning outcomes for all types of students, a progress monitoring tool gives students a sense of control during the learning process for two reasons:

  1. Real-time feedback lets them know if their answers are correct.
  2. If they didn’t answer correctly the first time, it provides them an opportunity to try again.

Ability to differentiate instruction

The ability to detect students who may struggle with general class instruction (or find it not challenging enough) is another major benefit of progress monitoring. A study of 100 gifted and talented students between 3rd and 6th grade illustrates why:

For one semester, researchers assigned 48 students to a classroom equipped with progress monitoring technology and 52 to a classroom that used traditional teaching methods. Students completed a pre-test before any implementations began, along with a post-test.

There was no difference in the students’ pre-test scores. After one semester, however, students in the progress monitoring group had significantly higher post-test scores than those who experienced traditional teaching methods.

Because students had received immediate feedback throughout, they could learn at their own pace while teachers could adapt to their students’ skill levels and differentiate instruction.

The key to student success

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Whether students are struggling or high-achieving, general classroom instruction often does not meet their diverse learning needs. The purpose of differentiated instruction is to ultimately bridge the gap between teaching and learning.

Differentiation shapes an approach to teaching in which teachers proactively modify curricula, teaching methods, resources, learning activities and student products to address the diverse needs of individual students and small groups of students to maximize the learning opportunity for each student in a classroom. -- Marilena Nicolae, “Teachers’ Beliefs as the Differentiated Instruction Starting Point: Research Basis”

Teachers can combine progress monitoring and differentiated instruction to help all students achieve optimal learning outcomes. Over the decades, study after study has shown that differentiated instruction can positively impact student success, increase math motivation and boost math confidence, as well as predict higher student engagement, interest and satisfaction.

There are three factors teachers must be conscious of for differentiated instruction to be as effective as possible:

  1. Take a proactive approach -- Plan lessons that inherently account for student differences.
  2. Be flexible with small learning groups -- Research suggests students in small learning groups have significantly higher levels of academic achievement than those not in groups.
  3. Align educational materials and pace lessons according to student needs -- Before assigning the same questions and advancing the curriculum at the same rate for the entire class, first consider each student’s academic readiness and learning style.

Digital technologies which make progress monitoring with immediate feedback possible could greatly enhance teachers’ ability to differentiate their students.

As student populations grow increasingly diverse, teachers and school administrators must consider implementing progress monitoring tools that provide immediate feedback and enable differentiation in their classrooms.

Failing to do so could result in students who:

  • Feel disengaged in their learning
  • Lack motivation to succeed in school
  • Receive lessons that do not promote adequate learning

How this relates to Prodigy

Prodigy is a digital game-based learning platform for 1st to 8th grade that helps engage and motivate math students — all while teachers track progress and send assessments.

One of Prodigy’s defining features is its mechanism to provide students immediate feedback on their answers. Without delay, students are given another opportunity to solve the problem — at their own pace — if their first answer was unsuccessful.

It also stores and synthesizes real-time data, generating comprehensive reports that provide an overview of class performance all the way down to individual student progress. These reports enable teachers to track learning progress and implement differentiated instruction that targets specific students and skills in a timely manner.

And because its adaptive in nature, in-game math problems will match each student’s ability allowing teachers to see the skills or strands in which they’re struggling or succeeding.

[Read the full Literature Review here.]

Want an effective EdTech tool that helps with progress monitoring? 

Sign up for your free Prodigy Math teacher account — and get easy-to-use teacher tools that save you time and help you track student learning as they play..

Start using Prodigy Math in your classroom today!