‘Academic Enabler’ Observational Checklists: Measuring Students’ Ability to Manage Their Own Learning

Student academic success requires more than content knowledge or mastery of a collection of cognitive strategies. Academic accomplishment depends also on a set of ancillary skills and attributes called ‘academic enablers’ (DiPerna, 2006).

Examples of academic enablers include:

  • Study skills
  • Homework completion
  • Cooperative learning skills
  • Organization
  • Independent seatwork
Because academic enablers are often described as broad skill sets, however, they can be challenging to define in clear, specific, measureable terms. A useful method for defining a global academic enabling skill is to break it down into a checklist of component sub-skills--a process known as ‘discrete categorization’ (Kazdin, 1989). An observer can then use the checklist to note whether a student successfully displays each of the sub-skills.
For example, a social studies teacher may decide that a student needs assistance in the academic enabler area of ‘study skills’. The teacher then defines the global term ‘study skills’ as consisting of the following sub-skills:
  • The student takes complete, organized class notes in legible form and maintains them in one accessible note book 
  • The student reviews class notes frequently (e.g., after each class) to ensure understanding           
  • When reviewing notes, the student uses highlighters, margin notes, or other strategies to note questions or areas of confusion for later review with teacher or tutor
  • The student follows an efficient strategy to study for tests and quizzes     
  • The student allocates enough time to study for tests and quizzes 
  • The student is willing to seek help from the teacher to answer questions or clear up areas of confusion       
Observational checklists such as the example above that define academic enabling skills have several uses in Response to Intervention:
  • Classroom teachers can use these skills checklists as convenient tools to assess whether a student possesses the minimum ‘starter set’ of academic enabling skills needed for classroom success.
  • Teachers or tutors can share examples of academic-enabler skills checklists with students, training them in each of the sub-skills and encouraging them to use the checklists independently to take greater responsibility for their own learning.
  • Teachers or other observers can use the academic enabler checklists periodically to monitor student progress during interventions--assessing formatively whether the student is using more of the sub-skills.
A collection of the most common global ‘academic enabler’ skills can be found in ready-made checklist format in the document Academic Enabler Observational Checklists: Measuring Students' Ability to Manage Their Own Learning (see attachment at the bottom of this page).



  • DiPerna, J. C. (2006). Academic enablers and student achievement: Implications for assessment and intervention services in the schools. Psychology in the Schools, 43, 7-17.
  • Kazdin, A. E. (1989). Behavior modification in applied settings (4th ed.). Pacific Gove, CA: Brooks/Cole.