Output Education

Education Blog

Learning Progression

Learning Progression

27 April, 2016

Learning Progression is the fixed sequencing of teaching and learning expectations across various developmental stages, ages, or grade levels. The term is most commonly used in reference to learning standards—brief, clearly articulated descriptions of what students should know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education.


  1. To ensure that students are learning age-appropriate material (knowledge and skills that are neither too advanced nor too rudimentary),
  2. To ascertain that teachers are sequencing learning effectively and avoiding the inadvertent repetition of information that was taught in earlier grades.


  1. The standards described at each level are planned to address the specific learning needs and abilities of students at a particular stage of their intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development,
  2. The standards mirror clearly articulated sequences—i.e., the learning expectations for each grade level build upon previous expectations while preparing students for more challenging concepts and more sophisticated coursework at the next level.

NoteIt should also be noted that learning progressions may be more accelerated or less accelerated relative to one another.

For example, in some European and Asian countries students learn algebra during their middle-school years, while it has been more common in the United States for students to begin taking algebra courses in high school. Depending on the sequencing of standards and progressions, students may be taught concepts sooner or later in their education.

Example of a Learning Progression Structure:

Kindergarten: Recognize the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book.

First Grade: Know and use several text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate facts or information in a text.

Second Grade: Distinguish and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

Third Grade: Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

Fourth Grade: Define the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

Fifth Grade: Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.

Grades 6–8: Examine the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.

Grades 9–10: Study the structure of the relationships among concepts in the text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).

Grades 11–12: Scrutinize how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.


Whether learning progressions are really learning progressions, or whether they are merely content progressions or teaching progressions. This somewhat technical debate occurs mostly among educators, researchers, and education experts.

The basic idea is that principles, by necessity, are created by adults with only a limited understanding of how students actually learn and develop cognitively at specific ages.

Consequently, grade-level standards and learning progressions show “best-guess” ideas about how content or teaching should be sequenced across grades, but they do not necessarily reflect the ways in which students actually learn new knowledge and acquire new skills. For this reason, they may not facilitate learning in the most effective ways, or they may unintentionally encourage and reinforce less-effective teaching strategies.