What is Monitoring for Learning

Sheri Coder - Associate Superintendent for Student Achievement | October 2, 2015

Every teacher and administrator in the East Moline School District 37 spends countless hours every year learning different ways to improve instruction in our schools.  It is really the focus of what we do:  helping all students learn at high levels.

On our first teacher inservice day of the year, we spent an entire day digging deep into the idea of “Monitoring for Learning.”  Monitoring for learning may sound pretty simple, but we found out that we need to monitor every student, every day, and in every subject to make sure they are mastering the learning targets that we set.  We have challenged our teachers to do just that in classrooms across the district.

Monitoring can happen in other areas: compliance and engagement.  Compliance means that students are doing what we asked of them.  A student may follow all of a teacher’s directions and may look like they’re learning, but there is no proof.  It’s hard to see into the head of a child.  Monitoring can also happen in the area of engagement.  Let’s put this in a parent context:  Have you ever had your child looking right at you, she was nodding her head, and then when you asked a question, she had absolutely no clue what you are talking about?  I know it’s hard to believe, but that happens in classrooms.  Students can “look” like they’re learning but how do we really know?

Here’s what we are really focusing on: Monitoring for Learning.  If a lesson is important enough for us to teach, then we need to be certain that all students are understanding the content of the lesson.  Gone are the days of calling on only the students that raise their hand.  All this shows is that one student has the answer and the rest of the students may or may not know the answer.  Instead, having students turn and talk to their neighbors (to process and answer the question) and then the teacher calls on random students.  This makes sure that all students know that everyone in the room is responsible for learning.  By the answers they give, the teacher knows whether it’s time to move on in the lesson or go back and reteach the lesson.

Another way to monitor for learning is to give every student a small whiteboard where they can work on a problem or write their answers.  When the teacher gives the direction to “show your answer”, all students hold up the whiteboards for the teacher to see.  At a quick glance, the teacher has a great idea of who has the right answer and who needs more instruction.  Another way to monitor for learning is having the students fill out “exit tickets” at the end of a lesson.  The teacher will ask students quick questions about the important information covered in the lesson, the students write down the answers on a slip of paper, and then the students turn the slip of paper into the teacher as they leave the room or as they move onto the next subject.  Later on, the teacher can examine the “exit tickets” to check for learning for every student.

We will be continuously working on “Monitoring for Learning” as well as other ways we can improve teaching and learning in our district.  Want to try “Monitoring for Learning” tonight at home?  You can “see” your child engaged in doing homework (monitoring for engagement), you “tell” if your child completed his/her homework (monitoring for compliance), BUT if your child can tell you what he/she learned...that’s monitoring for learning!