Reports… Why is it so much work for the Teachers?

Reports… What would you want your report to look like?

Reports, the time of year when we, as teachers, have to flawlessly write comments that are less descriptive, less critical, and less meaningful than the conversations we have with our students about their actual progress or overall performance in our classes.

What is more important – the teachers’ perspectives / opinions about the students’ engagement with a subject or the students’ own beliefs about how they have developed and progressed?

There are a few issues that I personally have about the current reporting “norm” and what it is doing to the mindsets of students. Hopefully I am able to convey my thoughts in a somewhat clear manner…

The first four letters of the alphabet

A, B, C, D… Even movie ratings have more detail than achievement grades! My big issue with the current grading system is that most students, parents, and teachers are valuing what is printed on the report way too much. What this causes is that the conversations about school and learning revolve only around achievement. What does an A actually tell a student or parent? How about a C? The grade might cause a conversation that should have happened on a more regular basis to actually take place, but apart from that, what are the benefits of the grading scheme? What story does a grade tell?

Who knows best?

Reporting season is a time where teachers have their the insanely busy yet somehow “normal” workload topped with grade determinations and… COMMENTS. With many teachers having between 20 to 200 students to write comments for, there is this belief that the teacher’s 150 word comment is supposed to beautifully encapsulate the student’s progress for that term, semester or year. There might even be a scale for how the teacher rates the student’s organisation, punctuality, effort, or other general traits using descriptive words like excellent, satisfactory, and insufficient. This ultimate combo of a C, sufficient across all four categories, and a comment that they could be distracted less and do more homework is a recipe for an extremely bland and meaningless report card.

Should students write their own reports?

Who knows the learning experience better than the learner? Why not have them write their report? I asked my students today what they thought about it, these were the very first comments:

“I’d give myself all A’s”

“My parents just want to know what grades I got”

“That’d be too unfair”

It wasn’t until I told them that their report didn’t have to include grades that they stopped talking about achievement. That’s where conversation started to get really interesting. Here are a few comments and questions that followed:

“So… What would we have instead of grades?”

“I’d like to write about what I’ve learned, not just about subjects, but about myself as a learner”

“Could we give ourselves grades for how well we think we went? Like instead of comparing to other students”

“I’d like to have control of my report”

“What if we still included grades but had a student comment for each subject, kinda like a commentary?”

At the school I currently teach at, the gem of our students’ reports are their reflective comments. The first thing that appears after their cover page is their comment (usually between 250-300 words) about how they have grown as a learner and progressed throughout the semester. This is then followed by a comment by their Learning Studies teacher (equivalent of a pastoral care or home room teacher). This allows for a very personalised start to the report and really sets the scene for the person reading the report.

I’d like to see us take it one step further and give the students more control over what appears on their report. What do you think? What would you put on your report card? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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