Independent work is key to any classroom’s success. First, it gives you the valuable time to work in small groups or one on one with other students, work with paraprofessionals, implement and manage behavior plans, and oh so much more. Second, (and more importantly) working independently is a hugely essential life skill. Think about it – could you even get through your day if you couldn’t work independently? Could you make dinner, keep your house clean, or pay your bills? Could you keep your job if you couldn’t work independently? Do you think your principal would love it if he had to sit next to you while you wrote every single IEP? Probably not and that would be ridiculously awkward.

So with independent work being this important, let’s remember that the goal is independent which means without any adult help. Some of our student may not be ready for independent work yet and that’s okay (another post for another day)! But for our kids who can work independently – how can we track their progress? How can we ensure they are completely the work? How do we know they are truly independent? The answer – data!

Track Prompts

The first thing we want to look at is if the tasks are actually being completed independently. So start by tracking prompts. If you are new to data collection (or you have a paraprofessional who is) this is a nice place to start. You can have one adult collect data for several students at once. You can count each prompt given through the task or just do a general prompting level like on the sheet to the right. I love having codes embedded into data sheets. It makes the data process so quick and easy. All you do is circle a letter.

Collecting data on prompting levels is also a great way to ensure that students are being over prompted. There has been many a well-meaning teacher or classroom assistant who is accidentally over prompting and not even realizing it. When you take data on each prompt – it makes you much more aware and makes you think twice before you provide a prompt the student may not need.

Count the number of total prompts with tallies.

Use a prompting to code to summarize the prompting level for each task.

If you are using a 3-bin work task system, I LOVE this data sheet. It breaks down the whole system to assess prompting level and overall level of independence. Part of the goal when using a work task system is to transition between tasks, set up a new task, and clean up a completed task. This data sheet lets us see all parts of the process!

Track Total Time

It may also be helpful to track the total time for each task or set of tasks. Even if tasks change every day, it would be helpful information to know if tasks are typically taking between 5 – 10 minutes and then you have a few days of tasks taking 30+ minutes. You can set a timer or glance at the clock at the beginning and ending of each task or set of tasks. For students who are working on increasing work endurance or the amount of time they can work independently – this is a great way to show growth.

Collect Data on Finished Work

When students are completing things like centers, worksheets, or file folder activities for independent work – collect data on the accuracy of the finished product. For my academic centers, I had a finished work bin that students put all finished center work throughout the week. On Fridays, I graded the assignments and gave points for correctly completed activities. This was great to add a long-term reinforcer to our independent work.