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Progress Monitoring

December 14,2015

Expert discusses essentials to supporting children with learning and behavioral challenges

Kristen McMaster explains the importance of progress monitoring in developing interventions for K-12 students.

December 14, 2015 - There’s no doubt about it, today’s classrooms are as varied as the students who populate them. 

Along with an increasing range of cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, it seems as though children are facing psychological and cognitive challenges at an increasing rate.

This recognition of a child’s emotional, psychological, and learning needs may be due, in part, to that fact that assessments are being made earlier and supports are put in place to assist in the development of the individual child. 

It’s one thing to assess a struggling student, but it’s another to determine what’s going on and where and how support can be implemented--and to be continued to nurture the needs of the child.

That’s where the process of progress monitoring comes in.

Progress monitoring is a process of collecting data to gauge a student's current level of performance and progress toward reaching important educational outcomes, explains Kristen McMaster,professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota .  “Its purpose is to evaluate the effects of an instructional program, and to adjust that program when student data indicate this need. “

“Progress monitoring requires assessment tools that are efficient to administer and score,” she continues, “and that produce data that are reliable, valid, show growth over time, and can be communicated easily to others.”

Gabrielle Wilcox, Assistant Professor and Director of the Werklund School of Education’s Integrated Services in Education (ISE), invited McMaster to campus to meet with teachers and administrators, academics and researchers, and undergraduate and graduate students.

Wilcox says progress monitoring is an integral part of teaching—or at least it should be.  The dilemma is that while no one disputes that its use is an effective tool in tracking and developing appropriate interventions, Wilcox says teachers may see the process as extra work rather than recognizing that it should be embedded in the instructional process.

That, she says, requires support. “Administration and other school staff, such as school psychologists, need to make a conscious effort to devote time and resources to this.”

McMaster agrees, and says other challenges to setting up the process may include selecting appropriate progress monitoring tasks; providing professional development and support to personnel who will collect, interpret, and use the data; and making appropriate decisions based on data. “Perhaps the biggest challenge is that progress monitoring does take time,” she says. 

“The good news is that there are many systems and resources available to make the process efficient and feasible. When progress monitoring is supported school-wide, is done with fidelity, and is viewed as an integral part of practice, it can actually save time by alerting educators to change instruction that is not benefiting individuals or groups of students in a timely fashion."

Wilcox invited teachers, administrators, and school psychologists and counsellors to join with WSE academics and researchers and students for the October 15 evening presentation by Kristen McMaster.  More than 100 people turned out to hear the presentation and participate it the question-and-answer session that followed.