Making Learning Visible: The Potential of Progress Tracking in Adult Education

Joey Lehrman
5 min readApr 17, 2023

One time I made a progress tracker in Google Sheets. At the time, it was just to help track my own workflow while also playing around with a few new spreadsheet formulas I was trying to learn.

I’ve since shared it with colleagues, and they seem to be using it. After a few years of not thinking about the tracker, I was asked about it at COABE 2023 by someone that had been using it for years. I’ve since been receiving emails and requests for the tracker, so I’m linking to it below in case others want to explore the tool!

I think people may like using it because it can help visualize progress on projects, and, with students and with staff, help them build confidence as they see themselves advancing toward goals.

I do believe there’s some potential with a tool like this, but I’d also be cautious as it may focus too much of a student’s attention on getting things done quickly rather than getting things done well (i.e. fluency, not speed).

But since there have been a few requests for the tracker, I’m excited to see how the community uses it.

How it works

The tracker template is rather simple. As boxes are ticked in the Column A, the green bar in the top row will increase in its progress towards 100%.

Ticking boxes in Column A will update the progress tracker at the top

If you need additional boxes, simply add them and the formulas will auto-update.

Adding rows for additional content will also be included in the tracker calculation.

In the tabs at the bottom of the template, you’ll find a similar but different version. This second version shows both overall progress at the top and individual progress of each task at the end of every row.

Ticking boxes in each row updates the tracker in each row. Completing a row updates the tracker at the top.

Note that adding rows here will not auto-update the formula, so you’ll need to play around a bit with the structure if you want to add rows (hint: simply copy and paste the formulas from Column A and Column I into the newly created rows).

Adding rows requires copying the formulas in Column A and I

A few ideas for how to use a tracker

To start the brainstorming, I think the tracker could be used for:

  • Intake. To enroll in a WIOA-funded program, students often must complete a series of steps, like filling out paperwork, submitting a photo ID, participating in orientation, and taking a placement test. This process can sometimes be overwhelming for students that are sometimes also experiencing the anxiety of returning to school. An intake tracker can be helpful in visualizing the steps, understanding what’s needed, and tracking progress for a smoother enrollment experience.
  • Content/assignments/standards. A tracker can help students monitor their goals or assignments, and, as a bonus, provide links to related learning resources.
  • Coach / navigator goals. A coaching or navigator tracker can help students develop positive habits and routines. The template can also include a learning process for when they are struggling, such as “When I am stuck, I will…”
  • Try Googling to see what I can find online
  • Watch at least one YouTube video
  • Ask a family member of friend for help
  • Ask a classmate for help
  • Send an email to my teacher or coach

Coaches and students can collaboratively build this process, then use it as the basis for weekly check-ins as students develop and reinforce positive study habits and routines.

  • Administrative processes. The WIOA administration process often involves routine steps such as entering attendance data, pulling test scores, and submitting regular reports. A tracker can be used by program leaders to define processes for staff and check the status of a workstream quickly. This can allow directors to identify where staff members may need additional support.

I find the most notable benefit about using trackers is the potential for increased transparency and accountability. Regardless of how it’s being used (i.e. teachers with students or program directors with their staff), everyone can monitor the progress of a project or process.

This kind of visibility should not be used punitively but rather for collaborative support. Teachers can use trackers as an opportunity to provide additional instructional support where necessary. Managers can use trackers as an opportunity to reach out and ask, “How can I help?”

I’m sure there are plenty of other ideas, so if you try using the template, post a comment sharing how you are using it with your colleagues and/or students so we can learn from that shared experience.

How to start using the tracker

You can use the following link to auto-create a copy of the template. Then, simply replace the items in each row with any content. Most importantly, be sure to share the template with your intended audience (students, colleagues) so the process can be collaborative!

I suggest also spending some time looking at the formulas just to get a sense of how they work. Even if you aren’t overly familiar with spreadsheets, you may be surprised to find how simple they are, and how easy it can be to change, say, the various colors or success messages!

Create a copy of the progress tracker

(Google sign-in required)

Last thoughts

Two final benefits of using trackers, with students or staff, is the opportunity to practice using spreadsheets, a useful digital literacy skill in the 21st century. And, to an extent, it’s also a chance to practice numeracy and data literacy skills.

So keep in touch if and when you start using a tracker as we learn how and where they can help add visibility to the learning process and create a more collaborative and supportive environment for students and staff!



Joey Lehrman

Joey is Co-Founder of Community Learning Partners and Project Manager with ISTE's SkillRise Initiative. Learn more at