The progress of our students is our primary mission as educators, both in the micro of the lesson and its individual activities and in the macro of formal assessment and qualifications. It can, at times, feel elusive; ensuring all our students make good progress regardless of different starting points, abilities and motivation. It can also feel intangible – how do we show progress over time, in a lesson, in a twenty minute observation?
Good progress can be achieved and demonstrated in many different ways, dependent on both subject and student. It can, however, be achieved by many of the same processes. By planning and regarding it as a journey, we can ensure that we plan for all of our learners to make good progress and demonstrate effectiveness in doing so.
Planning the Journey
To undertake any successful journey we must first know two things – where we need to go in relation to where we are now. The same is true for our pupils in order to make progress.
The following is taken from the Common Inspection Framework, under the “Quality of Teaching, Learning and Assessment”, on evaluating their effectiveness:
“assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify children and learners who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling children and learners to make good progress and achieve well”
Therefore we must be using data when planning for our students, providing tasks and activities that will allow all our learners to make progress, to support and to push. If we are not providing differentiation then we are not allowing all of our students to make good progress.
Similarly our students must also know purpose and goal of their journey. This is so they are able to know their own progress and reflect upon how much they have progressed. Providing Agreed Learning Outcomes that are shared and understood, modelling and exemplars of what the students need to achieve are some clear indicators that we can provide to equip our learners with a clear destination.
Pace of the Journey
If a journey becomes too slow or protracted it is in peril of not succeeding and being abandoned. To avoid this we should create lessons and activities that have momentum and purpose throughout to keep students’ interest and motivation. Having a starter activity that students undertake as soon as they enter the classroom is a good way of setting a challenging pace and engaging their focus.
Maintaining that momentum can come from the range of activities that we offer our students and also their quality; engaging areas of study, interactivity, group work etc. Constructing takes that require students to be active participants and that will stretch and challenge them will also ensure both pace and motivation are sustained.
In any journey we will come across obstacles that will impede progress unless we are ready to confront them. For our students they will each have their own individual obstacles that we must help them with, such as language or literacy needs or misconceptions and confidence issues. Anticipating these through techniques like differentiation and targeted questioning will help prevent progress from being impeded. We will be aware of the concepts and subjects matter that we will be delivering that is complex and challenging so can anticipate difficulties that our students might face and prepare accordingly with alternate methods of explanation or delivery that will assist our students in understanding.
Journeys will require points of reflection, to take stock of how far we have come, what ground we still have to cover and to correct any deviations or wrong turns. In lessons this takes the form of continuous assessment to check the progress of our pupils, over time it will be reflected in marking and feedback of student’s work and milestone assessments. Through this our students will know the progress they have made and be spurred on by it, also encouraging them to reflect on how they have made progress and how to make better progress in the future.
Progress can, and should, be assessed in the same way as knowledge and skills and is an excellent way to signpost to students (and any observers) their progress. I have included links to some strategies below and here is one of my favourites for is simple yet clear signposting:
“Progress Clocks are very simple. Students are issued with a template of a blank clock. The clock face is divided into four, each quarter represents twenty minutes of the lesson. The first part is to find out what the students know about a topic. This could be a completely new topic or one that you taught last lesson and are going to expand upon. The clock is revisited throughout the lesson and used a mini plenary check. Students use this alongside success criteria so they can see themselves how much progress they are making and what they need to do to achieve the next level.”
Finally, it is worth remembering that good progress can only be fostered by active and enthusiastic engagement from learners, and it is in their outcomes and attitudes that progress is evident. I have requisitioned this summary from the included Mary Myatt reading on the learning behaviors of students that are making god progress:
..it is possible to infer that progress is taking place when pupils are able to describe what they are learning and the reasons why; when they ask questions about the subject matter; when they are able to engage in discussions about what works and why; and when they are able to give and receive feedback constructively.