How To: Use Academic Self-Monitoring in Student Assessment

Learning Spark Blog: Jim WrightWhen a teacher discovers a large gap between a particular student's academic skills and the requirements of a reading or math Common Core State Standard, that instructor may decide to provide the student with a classroom academic intervention.


Research suggests that the teacher should also routinely include the student in the intervention plan by having that student set and self-monitor his or her own relevant academic performance goals.  When students are able to set personal academic goals, take steps to meet those goals, and periodically reflect on their actual goal-attainment, they build important skills relating to self-regulation (Burnette et al., 2013). Self-regulated learners assume increasing responsibility for managing their own learning (Martin et al., 2003)--through the process of applying independent effort and adjusting learning goals over time to eventually bring their skills into alignment with grade-level expectations.


There is a wide range of academic behaviors and work-products that could be the focus of student-developed goals. For example, a student who seldom completes in-class writing assignments may set the goal of turning in an assignment after each work session. Or a student needing to develop reading vocabulary may set the goal of keeping a vocabulary journal and recording terms and definitions for at least 10 new vocabulary terms per week. (See the table Student-Monitored Academic Goals below for additional examples of common academic problems and corresponding student-friendly goals .)


Student-Monitored Academic Goals: Examples

Academic Problem

Student-Monitored Goal

Limited fluency in basic math-facts

Number of correct digits on a timed (5-minute) math-fact worksheet

Lack of homework completion

Number of days per week when homework is turned in

Lack of independent reading

Number of pages or books read independently per week or month

Lack of time spent engaged in independent study

Number of minutes per week spent in study-time

Limited number of original sources cited in writing assignments

Number of research citations appearing in student composition


How to Set Up Student Academic Self-Monitoring: Initial Planning Conference & Periodic Check-Ins

The teacher who wants to start an academic self-monitoring plan will first meet with the student to assist in preparing the plan. Teachers can use the Academic Self-Monitoring: Teacher / Student Planner Sheet as an organizer to conduct an initial student conference and set up an academic self-monitoring plan. For students who are younger, deficient in organizational skills, or poorly motivated, the teacher may also choose to check in at the beginning and end of each monitoring session-both to ensure that the student is setting goals and monitoring correctly and also to provide praise and encouragement.


Below are the stagesfor preparing and launching the student academic self- monitoring plan. 

  1. Self-monitoring plan: Initial Meeting. In this initial planning meeting, the teacher facilitates the discussion but also prompts the student as much as possible to contribute to the plan. At this meeting, the teacher and student agree on the academic goal that the student is to track (e.g., 'multiplication math facts: 0-9'); select an objective measure to use in tracking progress on this task. (e.g., 'number of math-fact problems completed correctly on a 5-minute timed worksheet'); agree on how frequently the goal will be assessed (e.g., 'every day during math independent seatwork'); and set an initial performance goal (e.g., '25 digits correct'). Optionally, the student and instructor may also agree on a rate of expected improvement per session to help with updating goals (e.g., 'Ongoing goal: 1 additional digit correct than in the previous session').

  2. [Optional] Self-monitoring: Pre-session. Before each self-monitoring session, the teacher meets briefly with the student to set a performance goal for that session.   

  3. [Optional] Self-monitoring: Post-session. After each self-monitoring session, the teacher and student meet again. The student compares the actual performance with the goal. If the student attains the goal, the teacher praises the student. If the student falls short of the goal, the teacher provides encouragement about the next session.

Student Self-Monitoring: Additional Advantages

While an important benefit of academic self-monitoring is the reinforcement of student responsibility and self-management skills, teachers may find several additional advantages:

  • Academic self-monitoring can increase on-task behavior. Directing students with significant levels of classroom inattention to self-monitor their academic productivity is at least as effective in improving their focus as having them track their rate of on-task behavior. And measuring the amount of work completed has the added benefit of boosting student academic output (Maag, Reid & DiGangi, 1993). So a teacher might prompt a chronically inattentive student to set an academic performance goal at the start of each independent-work session (e.g., to write 200 words; to answer 20 math computation problems), then check in with the student at the end of the session to verify that he or she has attained the goal.

  • Academic self-monitoring is a useful way to track academic learning time. The goal of instruction is to have students engaged in 'academic learning time', a state in which they are productively and successfully engaged in learning  (Gettinger & Seibert, 2002). While it can be difficult for teachers to measure academic learning time (ALT) directly, student self-monitoring of academic productivity can serve as a useful proxy measure of ALT.

  • Data collected by the student helps to document the intervention. With the increased emphasis on accountability in many schools, teachers are responsible for implementing, documenting, and monitoring classroom interventions. In some instances, the student's self-monitoring information can supplement data gathered by the teacher to more fully document the intervention's impact. As a product of the intervention, student-collected data can also be used to assess the integrity with which that intervention is carried out (Gansle & Noell, 2007).


  • Burnette J. L., O'Boyle, E. H., VanEpps, E. M., Pollack, J. M., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Mind-sets matter: A meta-analytic review of implicit theories and self-regulation. Psychological Bulletin, 139, 655-701.
  • Gansle, K. A., & Noell, G. H. (2007). The fundamental role of intervention implementation in assessing response to intervention. In S. R. Jimerson, M. K. Burns, & A. M. VanDerHeyden (Eds.), Response to intervention: The science and practice of assessment and intervention (pp. 244-251).
  • Gettinger, M., & Seibert, J.K. (2002). Best practices in increasing academic learning time. In A. Thomas (Ed.), Best practices in school psychology: Volume I (4th ed., pp. 773-787). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
  • Maag, J. W., Reid, R., & DiGangi, S. A. (1993). Differential effects of self-monitoring attention, accuracy, and productivity. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 329-344.
  • Martin, J. E., Mithaug, D. E., Cox, P., Peterson, L. Y., Van Dycke, J. L., & Cash, M.E. (2003). Increasing self-determination: Teaching students to plan, work, evaluate, and adjust. Exceptional Children, 69, 431-447.