Progress Monitoring: Collect Good DATA Early!
Although progress monitoring goes by many different names (Response to Intervention – RTI, Multi-Tiered System of Support – MTSS), the ultimate goal is the same, collecting good data to determine if your intervention methods are working for your students. Whether you are a classroom teacher, a speech-language pathologist, a special education teacher, or the MTSS/RTI coach, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the differentiated instruction efforts that are being implemented are effective. More importantly, when the instruction is not working it is imperative to catch it early enough to make the necessary adjustments.
So what does GOOD data look like?
In a perfect scenario, we would be able to work one on one with each student who needs additional support and take data on how they perform during each session with the focus placed entirely on their individual needs. Unfortunately, the demands of the classroom and the critical shortage of SLPs in the school system makes it very difficult to work with students 1:1. We are required to group students and work on a variety of targets within a small window of time. For this reason, it is extremely imperative to make each session count while providing as many opportunities to address the necessary targets.
As an SLP, one of the biggest challenges we face each school year is scheduling. It can be frustrating and difficult to fit all of our students into our schedules with so many restrictions placed on blocks of time that they cannot be pulled out of classroom instruction. Although it is a tedious process, it always is achievable and we do get it done in the most efficient way possible. We do make every effort to group students with similar deficits and grade levels together (i.e. language groups, articulation groups, pragmatic groups, etc.) however, at times mixed groups are necessary.
Once scheduling is accomplished, as soon as we start working with our students we should be thinking about data collection and progress monitoring. The sooner we are able to gather baselines the better. I personally aim to try to get baseline measures within the first few sessions. I hold my students accountable and make them record their goals and targets for a better understanding of why they are receiving speech and language services. Working as a teletherapist, has made data collection significantly easier because my groups are smaller, generally 1:1, 2:1 or at a max 3:1. However, if you are working with larger groups, I would recommend pulling students with similar goals into smaller subgroups while allowing your other students to work independently on an activity. Present your smaller subgroups with an activity that will allow you to give each student at least twenty opportunities (more, if feasible) to respond and record their accuracy percentages.
With baselines established it is now time to continue to gather data over time to get a clear picture as to whether your efforts are effective. Again, with smaller groups, it is much easier to collect data during each session. Unfortunately, the reality is most SLPs and teachers have to work with larger groups and it may not be possible to get reliable data during each session on each student. When this is the case, it would be a good idea to set aside data collection days for your students and be consistent with obtaining data points on their scheduled data collection day. As you start to record data, be sure to identify the date it was collected and the resource you utilized during the session. This will aid in maintaining a more concise measure to pinpoint the specific things that are working and what may in fact not be working (progress monitoring).
Where should I house my data?
When I worked in the traditional brick and mortar setting, I maintained a binder with data sheets for each of my students. I organized this binder within the first few weeks of therapy and made sure that I started recording data as soon as I gathered my baseline measures. I had a schedule of data days for each group and aimed to informally collect data during each session and more formally collect data weekly. I recorded the percentages in my thick 3” binder and it was extremely useful to me during each MTSS/RTI meeting, IEP meetings, discussions with teachers and parents, and especially when completing my quarterly progress reports. However, I am a very visual person and find it easier to show parents, teachers, and administrators the progress (or lack thereof) that my students are making using graphs.
The graphs that I maintain are in Excel and I have recently made them completely editable and they can be purchased from my Teachers Pay Teachers store here. They are very user-friendly and just require you to input your data points with the dates that data was collected. From there, the graphs will auto-populate to monitor progress in an easy to read, visual way. I find that parents, teachers, and administrators appreciate this visual representation and have a better understanding of their students’ overall performance.
When you purchase this resource, you will receive a step by step guide that will instruct you on setting up your progress monitoring for each student. Again, I find it most effective to start recording data and inputting your data points as soon as possible. The graphs are designed to allow four data points per quarter and are color coded for ease of presentation. They can be shared as an accompaniment to your quarterly progress reports to keep parents informed. These graphs are a great way for you as an SLP or teacher to visually assess progress.
Data is imperative to identify what is effective and what may not be effective for our students. This data helps guide our instruction and aids in allowing us to differentiate for students who may still need additional support beyond small group instruction. If after a couple of measures, no progress is being made, it is time to assess the method of instruction and determine how it can be modified to best assist our students. We may find that some of the students within the group are making great gains and for them no modification is necessary. The method can be maintained because the data supports it and it is working for the students. However, for students within the same group who may not be making progress, they are in need of further differentiation.
At this point, the question becomes, what is not working for them? Analyze the situation and adjust your instruction to specifically reach them with a more individualized plan. Could it be that they would benefit from increased repetitions? Try this to determine if it works for them. Have the student listen to your instructions presented more than once and then require them to paraphrase or repeat back to you the expectation. Another possibility could be presenting the content in smaller more digestible bites or chunking. For instance, if you are reading a passage or book, stop more frequently to assess comprehension. It could be that they require clarification after each paragraph and in some cases after each sentence.
Further differentiation could include providing visual cues. Many students benefit from seeing a visual representation of a target vocabulary word and can make better connections with their prior knowledge when they “see” what it is that the group is discussing. I like the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” I find this to be very true with a lot of my students and I take it a step further by saying, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. With so much technology at our fingertips in the 21st-century classroom, I love to incorporate it into instruction by using videos as a precursor to a new lesson or as a final step for better retention.
As we monitor the progress of our students it is extremely important to constantly analyze our methods of instruction and modify them as appropriate to ensure that all of our students are making gains. Every student learns differently and it is our responsibility to capitalize on their strengths while honing in and helping them to improve their weaknesses. This is best achieved through frequent and efficient data collection to give us a better representation of how and where we need to make adjustments.
What are customers saying about my Progress Monitoring Graphs?
On August 24, 2017, Amy K. said:
This is absolutely a wonderful resource and one that I plan to use for years! This is going to be a wonderful visual presentation for parents and staff. Thank you.
On August 1, 2017, Christine W. said:
Our district has recently switched to asking for graphs to illustrate progress on IEPs. Can’t wait to use these!
On May 27, 2017, Magan G. said:
These were easily editable.
On March 28, 2017, Dawn H. said:
Not only is this a great product, but the seller is great to work with! I saw another product that she had created and needed it tweaked to fit my needs. She took the time to ask me questions and created it for me! Thank you so much!