Progress Monitoring to Support Science Learning for All Students

By Vannest, Kimberly J.; Soares, Denise A. et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

Progress Monitoring to Support Science Learning for All Students


Vannest, Kimberly J., Soares, Denise A., Smith, Stacey L., Williams, Lauren E., Teaching Exceptional Children


Students with disabilities typically receive science instruction in general education classrooms- sometimes with support from special education coteachers or instructional aides, sometimes with puilout or as-needed services for long or difficult assignments or tests, and sometimes with an accommodations or modification page clipped to a note or file. Variations of these program types are commonly seen in middle-school and high-school settings. Science teachers and co-teachers may experience the challenges of a "class within a class" where students with learning and behavioral challenges are sometimes unintentionally segregated into study groups or small group instruction while the larger class moves ahead in the curriculum. Partnering with exceptional teachers willing to creatively modify and adapt assignments and instruction to meet the needs of the diversity in their classrooms is not always enough. Too often, students do not learn enough content. Use of manipulative materials and hands-on demonstrations do not always translate well to the end-ofcourse or the state standardized exams the students need to pass. Because many students are also second language learners, there is an added dimension of complexity in acquiring and demonstrating content area knowledge. These sentiments are all too common across schools in the United States. So how do we better teach and monitor the learning of our students with disabilities in content area classrooms?

Although both the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB; 2001) mandate improved academic performance for all, schools still struggle to educate students with disabilities in content area courses such as science. However, two very promising methods are well suited for improving academic performance in a content area. These methods are progress monitoring and the use of key word vocabulary.

Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring is a formative process to assess student academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Response to intervention models frequently use progress monitoring (National Center on Response to Intervention [NCRTI], 2010). Progress monitoring involves repeated samples of student performance data over time (e.g., weekly quiz grades or twice-weekly lab assignments). When progress monitoring data is charted over time in a graph, it serves to create visual data for instructional decision making and provides feedback for students on their performance. The visual line of improvement in progress monitoring data is known as slope. If teachers use any brief assessment of learning once a week or more, the scores may be readily available for progress monitoring. If repeated assessment measures are not currently in place, they can easily be created. If this still seems to be a time burden for teachers, consider that students can self-score, self-record, and self-chart their performance - all of which improve academic performance while keeping students motivated and engaged.

More than 30 years of research shows progress monitoring to be a reliable and valid predictor of future performance on outcome measures (Deno, 2003; Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; Good & Jefferson, 1998). Progress monitoring data in science can quickly provide feedback for teachers on student learning and show clear relationships to future standardized test scores when equivalent probes sample from the entire curriculum (Vannest, Parker, & Dyer, 2009). This feedback presents an opportunity for immediate reteaching (when necessary) or the opportunity to move ahead more quickly when content is mastered. Progress monitoring data are well suited for documenting progress and, as such, can be useful in an individualized education program meeting, where student performance is discussed for content area courses and progress monitoring data can supply more specific information than simply reporting "passing at 70% or greater. …

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Progress Monitoring to Support Science Learning for All Students
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