UK early childhood researchers develop progress monitoring training for US schools

This video provides an overview of the online training module, Progress Monitoring for Preschool Teachers.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 11, 2024) — Preschool teachers across the U.S. have access to a free-to-use online module developed at the University of Kentucky College of Education to help support child development. It focuses on progress monitoring – a method educators use to collect and analyze data to help identify the most effective instruction for students. 

Collin Shepley, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project, said few resources exist to help teachers develop best practices for progress monitoring, despite it being an essential tool for serving students with an individualized education program (IEP) or at risk for disability or delay. 

The online training module was developed by a team led by Shepley, an associate professor of Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. 

When creating an IEP, educators identify meaningful learning objectives for each student, then create a plan for collecting and analyzing data to track progress toward achieving the objectives. Progress monitoring data helps teachers identify when instruction is effective and make decisions about how to individualize instruction for a student when the general curriculum isn’t meeting their needs. 

Shepley focused on ensuring the professional development will be easily accessible, without the need for a coach or trainer, especially for teachers in geographically isolated districts. 

The free, online module is accessible from anywhere, on any computer or tablet device, and takes about two hours to complete. Districts could use it for an in-service day, perhaps with teachers taking the online training during the morning and using the afternoon to integrate what they learned within the classroom,” Shepley said. 

Available until summer 2025, school districts can request additional support from the developers of the module via a 30-minute Zoom session for up to 300 people. Participants can engage in a question-and-answer session, ask clarifying questions and get feedback on situations they have encountered. 

While developing the training, school personnel across Kentucky provided input, via field testing, questionnaires and interviews. A randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the training was conducted across public preschools in Anderson, Fayette, Jessamine, Scott and Woodford counties.  

Research showed the teachers who completed the online training module demonstrated improvement in their progress monitoring abilities, were more confident in their ability to monitor child progress and were more efficient when engaging in progress monitoring in the classroom. 

The online module focuses on progress monitoring for kindergarten readiness skills related to literacy, math and cognitive concepts. In the future, researchers want to add daily living skills and social/emotional skills. 

Progress monitoring can impact student learning through a series of steps and decisions. A student’s IEP lays out objectives that will be most meaningful for that individual child to learn. The objectives inform what the child will be learning, how they will be taught and how their progress will be monitored. For example, an objective identified on a student’s IEP may be for them to work on identifying classmates, teachers and people in their life. To monitor progress on this skill, a teacher must determine what the skill looks like: Is the child verbally naming people or is the child pointing to them? Then the teacher must figure out the process for collecting data on the skill, how frequently to actually collect the data, when to analyze the data and when to make changes to their instruction if no progress is observed.  

This training is not a prescription for how to perform progress monitoring. It gives clear guidance on essential things that teachers can do to easily adapt how they do progress monitoring for their classrooms and students,” Shepley said. 

Progress monitoring prevents teachers from continuing to use teaching strategies which may not be helping their students. Even when teachers are using evidence-based instruction, the number of students who benefit from it can be limited. For a student with more individualized needs, progress monitoring is essential for teachers to identify when changes to their instruction are needed, to better align with a child’s learning preferences, interests and development.  

Teachers are phenomenal at identifying ways to reach students. When they have 15 students with an IEP, each with their own individualized objectives, the teachers are responsible for teaching and monitoring every one of those skills. Collecting data and making quick data-based decisions becomes critical for differentiating instruction to support every child, so we need to find ways to help make it as feasible as possible for teachers to do.” 

While the online module will be used across the U.S., Kentucky played a major role in its development. The collaboration with school districts provided opportunities for many of those involved, Shepley said. 

Visiting schools during this process not only informed our project, but also gave us insights about the resources and needs our pre-service early childhood educators will encounter when they complete their degree and begin their careers as teachers in districts across Kentucky,” Shepley said. “The project was also beneficial for our doctoral students. Getting a chance to work on a federally funded, randomized controlled trial during doctoral studies goes a long way.” 

The online module is available at The website offers guidance documents for school personnel who oversee professional development. It also has guidance for college course instructors who want to integrate the online module into courses for pre-service teachers. Shepley created a video that helps describe how the module functions. 

For more information on accessing the module or to request a consultation for a school, contact Shepley at 

This project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research of the U.S. Department of Education as part of an award R324B210002 totaling $697,576 with 100% funded by IES/NCSER.

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