Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Student Goal Setting and Data Tracking Transformed My Classroom

One of the biggest pushes in education today is letting students take control of tracking their own data and setting their own goals. To many teachers this task may be overwhelming and leave you trying to figure out the easiest way to implement this in your classroom. I know that is the challenge I was facing last summer. I had TONS of great ideas, but creating a manageable system that could work in a real world classroom seemed challenging. I started brainstorming on other organization systems I've used in my classroom before and researching on the Internet. 

In previous years, my students have kept folder portfolios that contain the majority of their work they completed during the school year. It was a very easy way for them to see their progress and a great tool to bring to parent conferences. I began to think that transforming that portfolio into a student data folder was going to be my best option, but what was that going to look like? What did it need to include? How would I make it simple and easy for my students? 

I decided to approach these questions and my task like I do when I create lessons for my classroom. The first thing I always do is identify the purpose or need and the WHY behind it. My purpose was simple to create an easy goal setting and tracking system for my students to take control of their learning.   The second step was to define what that would look like. I created a list of the things that I thought needed to be included:
  1. Long term goal (the entire school year)
  2. Short term goals (monthly, quarterly, weekly?)
  3. Goal reflections
  4. Tracking Charts (bar graphs, tables, charts, etc.)
Once I had identified my purpose for the student data folders and what should be included, I worked like a madwoman to create graphic organizers, test reflections, tracking charts, bar graphs, and more. My desire to get things right led to many long hours and sleepless nights. There were so many redesigns and complete overhauls before I was finally satisfied with the final product. It covered every area of goal setting and data tracking in a student-friendly way. I was so sure of this product's success that I decided to put it for sale in my TPT store.  I watched in awe as it rose to the second best seller in my entire store and received rave reviews.

In my own classroom, it was working well, but there was still a need for more. My students did a great job at setting their monthly goals and creating actions plans to achieve them. I would proudly show them off and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. I had these beautiful student data folders and my students were setting goals left and right, but were they really understanding the WHY behind what we were doing or just going through the motions to complete another task? The simple answer is no. They didn't understand the WHY or see the bigger picture. 

Sure we tracked their pre and post benchmark scores, but there was nothing in place for the in between. My students were growing and I could see that in the quality of their work, but I knew that many of them could not. Things had to change and they did. In January, my partner teacher and I decided that the easiest way to assess student progress and have students also track their progress was through the use of weekly assessments. Each assessment would be based on the text we were reading that week in class. It contained four multiple choice questions with an answer justification required and a constructed response question. Students would take their weekly assessments on Friday. During the first ten minutes of class on Mondays, we would pass out data folders and students would record their scores. This became the new normal in our classroom. Students would also set mini goals based on their scores. For some, it was to increase their overall score. For others, it was to bring up their constructed response score from a 2 to a 3. 

Grade sheet from Quarter 3
Grade sheet from Quarter 1

It was rocky at first and some students were hesitant to set goals for themselves, but do you know what happened next? Students began to grow each week. Students began to smile each time they got back an assessment and recorded it in their data folders. Students would stop me as I walking around the classroom and say with a big smile, "Look how much I grew, Mrs. Harpole." I was simply amazed by the transformation I saw in some students; however, there were still students who were too focused on a letter grade or proficiency label to notice that they were still growing. I had students going from 1/12 to a 5/12 that did not believe they were growing because the letter grade still said F. During Quarter 4, we wanted to eliminate this problem so we stopped putting letter grades on the weekly assessments and told the students WHY we decided to do this. This also included goal setting. My students set goals during Quarter Four that did not contain letter grades or words like "basic" and "unsatisfactory". We focused on numbers only. I wish this was something we would have focused on from the beginning because I can only imagine how much more my students would have grown. 

I sat down at the beginning of the summer and revamped my student data folders. With a year's experience of using the data folders under my belt, there were several revisions and additions that I needed to work on. I am determined to use the lessons I learned from my classroom last year to begin this year on the right foot. My confidence level is much higher than it was this time last summer and I can only imagine the possibilities that this year will hold.

If you are interested in this product, you can click here to check it out on TPT. Here's a sneak peek of just a few of the pages available in this year's student data folders:

All you need is a folder, hole punch, pages from my product, and sheet protectors to hold student work to create the data folders.

This can be the first page in a students folder or it can be glued to the front of the folder.

The three different sections available.

You can add a page protector behind these pages so that students can put their assessments and others in their folders.

Students can keep track of their self assessments using this weekly reflection sheet.

Until next time,