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Improve Student Outcomes with a Time-on-Task Chart


A step-by-step guide for enhancing student outcomes

With peer diversion, disinterest in a topic, and/or heavy cognitive load, it's easy to see why students succumb to falling off task. In order to encourage persistence, teachers must actively counteract the distracting influences students encounter.

So how to do this? It comes back to the "Build-Measure-Learn" concept. If we track progress, identify areas for growth, implement strategies and assess their effectiveness, we can boost our students' outcomes.

We designed a time-on-task worksheet to help educators do just that.

Download the above time-on-task worksheet or follow the steps below to enhance your students' outcomes. Educators can also use this Google spreadsheet for tracking student outcomes.

Week 1

I. Set a baseline.

Keep track of the number of students who started, persisted through, and finished the task at hand.

II. Pick the area for greatest impact.

Reflecting on the data collected, if you had to pick one KPI (key performance indicator) to improve next week, which would have the highest impact on class culture and student outcomes? Improving the number of students starting, persisting, or finishing? 

III. Set measurable goals for improvement and build a new strategy

For example, “I am going to increase the % of students starting on time by 10%.”

Then, build a new strategy around this goal. Some teachers find that students are more attentive if the class disrupts routine. Teachers might try greeting students at the door, leaving worksheets ready-to-go on desks, mixing up student groups, or encouraging student debate.

Week 2

IV. Measure

As you implement strategies to support your goal, track the same data that you measured from week one.

V. Learn

Did the strategy work? For whom did it work? For whom did it not work? 

By making data-informed decisions, we can rapidly identify areas and methods for improvement when it comes to classroom time on task.

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Eileen Murphy
Eileen Murphy

Eileen taught English for 15 years and was the founding English Department Chair at Walter Payton College Prep as well as the author of 360 Degrees of Text (NCTE, 2011).

As the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for over 100 of Chicago’s highest performing schools, Eileen became passionate about the role technology could play in education in the 21st century and left CPS in 2012 to develop ThinkCERCA to help all students achieve career and college readiness. ThinkCERCA is one of the top Literacy Courseware Challenge winners (Gates Foundation).