Can you hear the learner’s voice?

Do conventional report cards give parents a true description of a child’s learning? If not, what would improve them?

This was the driving question behind yesterday’s #edchat conversation. I assume that ‘conventional report cards’ vary in different educational contexts around the globe. And I’m sure they have much in common in the attempt to reduce the exciting, messy, complex process of learning to something tiny and uniform that fits into an envelope.

Report card

Can you hear the learner’s voice in your reports?

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that teachers can ’cause learning without the student’s help,’ as Dylan William says in this great little clip about metacognition. 


The most telling part of my school’s reports is the student reflection. It reveals a great deal, not just about the learner but  about how the learning takes place…

Some snippets from our current Year 5 and 6 report reflections:

Compare these, which focus on ‘work’ and ‘results’…

‘I worked really hard… and in the end it all paid off because I got an A.’

‘I have improved immensely in spelling. I got 41 out of 50 however, I still think there is room for improvement.’

‘In maths I don’t think I am living up to my potential, as I am not getting the results I would have liked to.’

‘I think I need to work on listening to instructions more carefully.’

… to these, which focus on learning…

‘This year I have extended my knowledge, matured and have shown that I can overcome anything if I really focus and concentrate on all the obstacles that are in the way of my destination – succeeding and doing my utmost. I think that I am a curious and open minded learner. ‘

‘In Inquiry, I’m like someone running and picking up speed and momentum. Last year, finding a big question was so baffling but now it’s simple. These last three inquiries have been so absorbing, I have been like a sponge waiting for more knowledge to absorb into my brain.’

‘Throughout primary school you do units of inquiry. At the beginning of this semester, I thought that I was locating facts and presenting them. In this semester, I have learned not just facts but deeper understandings and meanings. I have also improved my creativity in linking ideas in units of inquiry’.

‘I have learnt many skills about writing speeches and how they are not just a read-out narrative, how to raise my voice when talking about something important, speak in a different tone or to move my hands in certain way to get people’s attention. I still think I need to improve on my writing skills and how to convert thoughts into words and get them on the paper.’

Can you hear the learner’s voice?

Related post: 10 ways to encourage student reflection

9 thoughts on “Can you hear the learner’s voice?

  1. I’ve been reading a lot of student reflections lately. I love the idea of student ‘voice’. Here are another couple of examples from Year 5:

    The student who found giving a prepared speech to an audience ‘….hard, scary and fun. It improved my grammar but at the same time gave me heart attacks’. She went on… ‘Spelling has never been my best subject in class. Without practise, I would get low scores. I’ve improved a lot this semester! ART is my first choice. It allows me to release my energy held hostage during the day. My highlight. The best lesson ever created. It’s fun and soothing. Nothing can replace it.’

    Another child wrote, ‘I am really amazed at how plants grow and how they survive in different biomes. With our new inquiry it was so fantastic to go to the Botanical Gardens and see what kind of plants there are and where they live.’

    And another, ‘I created my inquiry questions the same way every year but this semester I tried to think ‘outside the box’. I love maths and this semester we’ve done many maths inquiries. I really enjoyed doing them. I will always remember my coin stacking inquiry.’

    I think its so important to incude the student’s perspective on their learning in reports. As a parent, I would be happy to read these kinds of reflections which help to put whatever letter grades they may get in perspective.

    However, insightful reflection by kids can’t just be pulled out of the air at report time. It really shows when teachers encourage their kids to constantly reflect on their learning throughout the year.

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  2. Another lovely post Edna – and a timely one. Ironic that many teachers in our state schools won’t be providing their comments on reports this year – but maybe we could ask more students to do it for themselves! The key to students being able to do this well is that they develop a vocabulary to talk about themselves as learners and this has to happen all through the year. Inquiry classrooms are places where everyone can speak “learnish” as Claxton points out. Obviously the kids in your school are fluent learnish speakers!

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  3. It takes some time to reflect on a much deeper level, focusing on learning rather than results and products. But if you stick with it, share great examples, and also actively support your students in doing so, they will get there in the end. Maybe they won’t be as eloquent as some of yours, but at their level they will reflect much more deeply. This was the result of an action inquiry into self-assessment and self-reflection I did in my classes in Berlin a long time ago and I have tried to take on the results and develop them further since then.

    What students often struggle with is… what is it that reflection wants? And sometimes using models, like Gibb’s reflective cycle help! Guiding questions to open up the path to deeper thinking.

    Love the student reflection… we did this in Modena but it sort of slipped my mind. I need to take this on board again! Thanks Ed, lovely to read as always!

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  4. I’ve seen the reverse, too… seems students learn the grade emphasis well. They get older and the teacher is all about the reasons for learning something and the students are singing “but is it on the test?”

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    1. I have been using the students voice throughout my last two years of report cards. My self and many of my co-workers love using the students voice and feel that students comments on their own learning are very powerful. When you read a report where the students voice and the teachers voice are intertwined and support each other it’s hard to beat.

      What I find sad is the number of parents who have said that they are not interested in hearing what their child has to say on their report. While it has only been a small number of parents I still find it sad.

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