How to Track Your Students’ Performance: 10 Proven Tips

Teachers globally still rely on age-old summative assessments to track student performance. The grades students earn on unit tests, and external assessments help in two ways:
  1. They allow schools to uphold education standards.
  2. They provide government insight into every school’s performance.
Summative assessments remain a great way to measure a student’s general understanding. Yet, covering the curriculum requirements does not always translate to effective learning.  And this is where formative assessments become an invaluable tool.  They allow teachers to figure out which parts of the lesson the students are not able to learn. In this way, it becomes easy for teachers to clear up any misconceptions students have. This information allows teachers to make real-time or long-term changes to their instruction. When a student misunderstands a concept and is not corrected, the wrong idea becomes ingrained in the student. This results in lapses in knowledge and achievement.  Learning how to effectively track student performance is simple. All you need to do is incorporate formative assessments into your approach.  Here are ten proven tips to help you learn how to track student progress.

How to Track Student Performance: 10 Proven Tips 

Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments demand your participation both inside and outside class. Nonetheless, learning how to effectively track student performance becomes easy if you follow our first tip:

#1 Build a System to Track Students’ Progress

Making a system allows teachers to keep an eye on student progress throughout the term. The ideal system will ensure you, as a teacher, know when your students need you to explain the concept again slowly. The system will also indicate when students are following your explanations correctly and when you can cover some parts of the chapter speedily.  Further, the ideal student tracker will help you figure out when re-teaching is necessary. But most importantly, the system will store hard data about the effectiveness of your explanations.  Making a personalized tracking system ensures that it aligns with your organizational style. For instance, Some teachers find printing out spreadsheets to track student skills most convenient. Students who have mastered a skill get a tick on the spreadsheet checklist. Other teachers keep track of progress with calendars for each student. There is a daily entry about students’ strengths and weaknesses throughout the term. But using paper binders, tables, and clipboards demands a lot of manual work to collect the data. Analyzing the data is a whole other ordeal. Besides, it’s always better to have a system that students can also access in some capacity. Many instructors, therefore, rely on online tracking systems to track their students’ progress. Using an online system will be convenient since updating it regularly is less hectic.  You can find several online tracking systems that consolidate the data for you. JotForm is one good example of this.     Online tracking tools allow you to store data in spreadsheets directly or with forms. Data visualization is offered using reports. Most tools allow the use of custom metrics. Furthermore, they make it easy to view data by year, grade, goals, and curriculum. Zoning in on key tracking metrics is an important part of learning how to track student progress online. Data points you should be collecting on your tracking system include but are not limited to:
  • Assessments of students’ knowledge and abilities before instruction
  • Assignment scores
  • Behavior assessments
  • Homework completion rates
  • Number of reading hours
  • Test and quiz scores
Ensuring your system is up to date with new data is key to successful performance tracking.

#2 Facilitate White Board Responses

Instructors often pose questions to the class. But students shouting their answers gives you no information about student understanding. Giving students whiteboards allows them to write their responses. The students can write their answers when you pose a question and hold the board up. All you will need to do is scan the responses, and you will know who understands the concept and who is struggling. Taking note of the students who don’t answer correctly is a nice way to identify the need for re-teaching. You are not limited to using whiteboards – you can use response cards of any kind. Paper signs and large index cards can be held up and read from a distance equally well.      Response cards can work wonders when coupled with pre-assessments. Suppose you explain a concept a second time before the class ends. There is a chance it might still not be clear in students’ minds the next day. Short pre-assessments give you an idea about the lapses in student knowledge. The idea is to have students complete it before you begin teaching. You can re-teach concepts according to your students’ performance If students have understood the concept, you can move on to the next one and save time. 

#3 Use Exit Tickets

If pre-assessments are not quite your style, you can use exit tickets. These allow instructors to gauge student understanding before the session ends.  Depending on your teaching topic, you can use exit tickets daily or weekly. Student responses offer insight into the depth of student understanding.  With this information, teachers can adjust instruction to meet the student’s needs. Most teachers make their own exit tickets. But doing it right is challenging if you’re learning how to track student performance for the first time. But don’t worry — you can find hundreds of exit ticket templates online on sites like Canva. When you see a template you like, you can modify it, print the tickets, and give them to your students.      Good exit tickets zone in on the lesson’s objectives. They revolve around concepts or skills students should have understood in the session.  Posing short answer questions is the most common way to approach this. An exit ticket should pose no more than five questions. Students should be able to answer all of them in a few minutes at the end of the class. Making good exit tickets takes practice. Posing precise questions that allow you to assess students’ understanding is not as simple as it may seem.  Avoid posing yes or no questions and asking students point-blank whether they understand a concept. These questions will not give you any information that will allow you to help your students. The best questions make students apply the concept and demonstrate their understanding. If you’re wondering how to track student progress online with exit tickets, you can use Google Forms for this purpose. Google even has a helpful tutorial on the subject that will guide you through using it. 

Use Minute Papers

If making exit tickets is not viable, you can ask your students to write their responses on index cards or pieces of paper. The idea is to give them one or two minutes to identify the biggest things they learned in the session. You can then collect the responses and assess whether the students are grasping the lesson properly.

Use Muddiest Point

This method takes a different approach to formative assessment. You must ask your students what their “muddiest point” was in the lesson, homework, or reading. Give them two minutes to write their answer down on an index card and turn it in before the class ends. 

#4 Interaction and Communication

Interacting with students one-on-one is sometimes necessary. With some students, this is the only way to gauge the extent of their knowledge. Effective communication is more helpful to teachers than to students. It allows teachers to adjust their instruction and plan the next steps.     Finding lapses in understanding is only one of the benefits of direct communication. One-on-one sessions also allow teachers to zone in on the most effective parts of their approach.

#5 Summarizing

Asking students to summarize is not just a speaking exercise. It is more of a comprehension test. If a student tells you exactly what they know, you can help them refine their knowledge easily. Short and quick student summaries don’t take long if conducted carefully.     There are a few different ways of doing this. You could ask students to summarize the concept in a few phrases at the end of the class. You could also ask students to provide descriptors about, let’s say, a character in the middle of a lesson.

#6 Use Problem Recognition Tasks

These tasks can be especially useful if you teach math. Identify a few problems that can be solved using only one of the different methods you taught. Next, ask your students to identify which method will work best on each problem. There is no need to ask students to solve the problem in this task. As you can imagine, this exercise works best when each problem can only be solved using one method. This is an excellent way to see whether the students fully understand how every method works. Or, more precisely, the consequences of applying a specific method to a problem.

#7 Student Understanding Questionnaires 

The idea here is to make a questionnaire and ask students to answer it at the end of the unit. It helps determine the depth of student understanding of all the concepts.  All you have to do is ask the students to answer a few multiple-choice questions. The answers must state different levels of understanding.  For instance, if you are teaching your students to round whole numbers, you can frame a question and ask them to tick one of the following two answers:
  • Using number sense, I can round whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.
  • I can describe the process of rounding whole numbers to the nearest 10 or 100.

#8 Use Dipsticks

Tests created to determine a student’s understanding as easily and quickly as checking the oil in a car are called dipsticks.  Some examples of such exercises include asking students to:
  • Sketch to represent a concept.
  • Write a letter to a friend explaining a key idea.
  • Do a think, pair, and share exercise with another student.
These are only a few examples of dipsticks, and you can make your own exercises to engage students.

#9 Matching/Concentration 

Write a few relevant questions on a set of cards and the answers to those questions on the other set. Shuffle the two decks, and lay them on the table facing down. Ask students to take turns, turn over two cards at a time, and match the questions with the right answers. If a student gets a match, they can play another turn. Else, it’s the next student’s turn. The student with the most matches wins.

#10 Four Corners 

Besides allowing you to determine whether students understand concepts, the four corners activity is also a fantastic way to get kids up and moving.  Label the classroom’s four corners: agree, disagree, strongly agree, and strongly disagree. Then, read out a statement and allow your students to go to the corner of the room representing their answer. Let the students pick a corner. Then, give them a couple of minutes to discuss their choice amongst themselves. Next, pick a representative from each group to defend the group’s answer.

Conclusion

All the tips in this post give you a window into what your students think. Regardless of which tips you use, take time to reflect. It is key to ensuring that you’re assessing the content rather than getting lost in assessment fog. If you find any tips time-consuming, unreliable, or inaccessible, it’s OK to try another tip.  Tracking your observations of students in the middle of instruction can be challenging. But it’s not impossible. You can make quick notes on your phone or tablet. You can also make notes on a copy of your roster as you watch your students work.  You can print a few copies of a focused observation form and jot down the details when you see fit. This is the right way to go if you value noting your observations formally. Make sure you don’t use student progress tracking only to determine when students are struggling. If you see improvement, take the time to celebrate a student’s successes.  Which student performance tracking approach do you plan to use with your students? Are there other interesting and effective approaches that we missed in this article? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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