Practice: Monitoring and Communicating About Student Progress
Monitoring and Communicating About Student Progress means helping students set and meet homework goals, and keeping parents and school day teachers informed about students' progress. It entails communicating about the structure and expectations of homework time, and developing ways to learn about and keep up with students' homework.
Begin by connecting with school-day teachers. Let them know that homework help is available. Stay informed about teachers' homework expectations in different subject areas, as well as which students may need the most help.
Many students benefit from a structured approach. Consider using a written agreement, signed by students, parents, teachers, and staff, detailing each person's commitment to homework completion. This written agreement should clearly describe each person's role in homework and what is expected during homework time.
Use a homework log to record assignments, track progress, and communicate with teachers and parents. A homework log can also be used to help students manage their time, prioritize the things they need to do, and assess their own progress.
Use these sample forms to create or adapt homework agreements and logs for your program.
- Homework Agreement (PDF)
- Homework Log (PDF)
- Homework Sharing Tool (PDF)
- Survey of Teacher Programming Needs (PDF)
- Matrix of School-Day Teacher Programming Needs (PDF)
Research reveals that when afterschool staff, school-day teachers, students, and parents communicate openly and regularly, students are more engaged and focused on their homework and teachers report an increase in homework completion.
The purpose of this section is to explore some of the skills and procedures shown in the video vignette, Monitoring and Communicating About Student Progress. In the video, you can see how a real afterschool program implements elements of this Homework practice.
You may want to watch the video once prior to reading this section so that you can become acquainted with how the featured afterschool program monitors student work during homework help time, and communicates about student progress. Jot down notes as you watch. Next, read about suggested ideas in Build Your Homework Help Practice and answer the accompanying questions. If time permits, view the video a second time. Compare the strategies that the instructors use in the video with your own current practice.
At the Hillside Elementary School Program in Berlin, New Hampshire, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students use individual homework planners or "study logs" to document and organize their daily homework assignments. At the start of each homework session, afterschool facilitators review students' study logs to determine their homework objectives for the day. Once students complete their homework assignments, they are checked over by an afterschool facilitator. Sometimes students will need to re-do some portion of their assignments.
When the assignments have been completed satisfactorily, the facilitator stamps students' logbooks and assignment sheets, confirming that the homework has been finished during afterschool. The stamp tells the school-day teachers and the parents that the homework was completed under the supervision and guidance of the afterschool facilitators.
- Individual student log books to track homework assignments
- Rubber stamp to confirm that homework assignments have been completed correctly
1. Adopt the use of planners for monitoring homework assignments. The practitioners in the video describe the homework planner as a helpful tool and explain its use in the homework help center. Students are responsible for maintaining their planners (writing down their daily assignments and making sure they are stamped when assignments are completed). The planner helps students take ownership of their work and provides a way to show parents what students are working on.
How do students in your afterschool program keep track of their homework assignments? Do you find that students have trouble organizing their assignments and prioritizing their work? What strategies and tools do you use to help students get more organized?
2. Check individual homework planners for homework assignments. In the video, afterschool instructors check students' planners to determine their individual homework assignments. Students who have homework are instructed to line up and go upstairs to the homework help center. Students who do not have homework stay in the cafeteria to participate in educational games, crafts, and other activities. Occasionally, students may think they don't have homework, but careful checking of their planner may show an assignment that they have overlooked.
What is your mechanism for knowing what assignments individual students have? How do you check on student assignments and direct students to appropriate areas to either work on their homework or engage in other activities? Do you have a dedicated area and activities for students who do not have homework assignments?
3. Engage with students to make sure they understand their homework assignments. In the video, the afterschool instructor, who is also a school-day teacher, checks in with students frequently for brief periods of time to make sure they are working consistently and correctly on their homework assignments. This frequent checking-in with students is extremely important to their success. In many homework help programs, the instructors sit and monitor from their seats, waiting for students to come to them if they need help. In most cases, students do not ask for help; this means that their homework is often not completed, and if it is, it is most likely incorrect. The key skill demonstrated by the afterschool instructors in the video is the engagement with individual students on their work and their understanding of the concepts and skills the work requires.
How do instructors in your afterschool program monitor students as they complete their homework assignments? Do they frequently check in with students, or are students expected to come to them if they need help? How do instructors monitor student understanding of the concepts and skills embedded in their homework assignments?
4. Check homework to make sure it has been completed, and that it is correct. When the homework is finished, the instructor in the video checks over the student's work for completion and accuracy. Once the homework is determined to be correct, the instructor stamps and initials the assignment and signs and dates the student's homework planner. The instructor explains that the stamped and signed planner tells parents that the homework assignments are complete and correct, and lets the school-day teacher know that the student may have received help on the homework assignment.
Why is it important to check student work for both completion and accuracy? How do you redirect students when they make homework mistakes?
5. Ask open-ended questions about the content of the homework assignment, checking for the students' understanding of the material. In the video, the instructor sits with the individual student as he or she works on the assignment. The instructor asks open-ended questions that test the student's understanding of the assignment and the concepts embedded in the homework.
How do you use questioning techniques to draw out student thinking and help them find their own answers to problems? How do you use questioning to test student understanding?
See also: Tutoring, Mentoring, and Building Study Skills
6. Set goals and outcomes for monitoring and communicating about student work. In the video, a student reports that one outcome of the homework help and homework planner is that she is more organized and careful with her homework—which results in better grades.
What are the desired outcomes of monitoring student homework, and communicating about it with school-day teachers and parents? To what degree are these outcomes met by your homework help center? How can your program more effectively monitor and communicate about homework to improve student outcomes?
Think about your answers to the following questions:
- How do you currently monitor and communicate about student homework?
- What did you learn about this practice from seeing it in action?
- What are some new strategies that you would like to try in your program?
- What are the benefits of doing this? What outcomes do you expect?
- What are some of the challenges? What will you need to do this?
What skills do practitioners need in order to effectively monitor and communicate about student progress?
Practitioners need to know how to:
1. Lead students in setting goals for homework completion and correctness by:
- Prioritizing homework assignments
- Managing time toward homework completion and correctness
- Assessing progress on attainment of homework goals
- Toward completion
- Toward correctness
2. Work with school-day teachers to coordinate student homework needs
- Keep them informed about homework help
- Determine which students need the most homework help
- Keep abreast of which students need the most help over time
3. Work with parents to help them to develop ways to learn about and stay up-to-date on students' homework assignments
Homework Agreement (PDF)
- Structured approach means all stakeholders sign
Homework Log (PDF)
- Record assignments
- Track progress on homework
- Completion rate
Homework Sharing Tool (PDF)
- Communicate progress with:
- School-day teachers
Survey of Teacher Programming Needs (PDF)
Matrix of School-Day Teacher Programming Needs (PDF)
- Creates linkages with school-day program
To help monitor student progress, consider setting up an afterschool weblog (a blog) to stay in communication with regular day school teachers and parents. Obviously a blog should not be the only means for keeping in touch with parents regarding a student's progress because not all parents will have Internet access; however, it may be just the answer to quick and easy communication with students' day school teachers. The following links provide guidelines and support for setting up blogs for educational use:
Be sure to consider privacy and security issues when using this technology and to coordinate with and abide by school policies about Internet use and posting of student information.
Homework Sharing Tool
Indicators for Homework Assessment
Support Blogging: A List of Educational Blogs
Edublogs: a site that allows you to create your own blog
Five Steps To Start A Blog
Onblastblog: Blogging in the classroom
How to Start Any Type of Blog
Cosden, M., Morrison, G., Albanese, A., & Macias, S. (2001). When homework is not home work: After-school programs for homework assistance. Educational Psychologist, 36(3): 211-221.
Cooper, H. (2007). The battle over homework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Cooper, H., Robinson, J., & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1): 1-62.
Cooper, H., & Valentine, J. (2001). Using research to answer practical questions about homework. Educational Psychologist, 36(3): 143-153.
Cooper, H., Valentine, J., Lindsay, J., & Nye, B. (1999). Relationships between five after-school activities and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(2): 369-378.
Muhlenbruck, L., Cooper, H., Nye, B., & Lindsay, J. (2000). Homework and achievement: Explaining the different strengths of relation at the elementary and secondary school levels. Social Psychology of Education, 3: 295-317.