Why do we STILL have reports?

Why is it that, in this day and age of instant communication, most schools and parents still expect the kind of report card suited to another era?

Why do reports traditionally go out twice a year, when there are endless ways teachers and learners can, and do, communicate their learning throughout the year?

Why do teachers spend great chunks of time reporting in a summative way on a final report, when formative assessment, goals and ‘feed forward’ during the year are so much more valuable?

Why don’t teachers, parents and learners share the learning via online portfolios, easily accessible throughout the year, demonstrating process, progress and final product, with facility for reflection by students, feedback by parents and ‘feedforward’ by teachers?

Why don’t learners communicate their learning more with parents and the wider world through the many possible channels available online?

Why do governments and administrators continue to dictate not just the existence of report cards, but often the format and parameters they should fit?

What if the hours teachers spend writing and proofreading reports were instead allocated to professional learning and collaborative planning that enhanced future learning?

and…

WHY has so little changed in the four years since I last wrote those questions?

A report card for teachers?

Teachers spend countless hours thinking about how best to describe their students for the written reports that go home to parents. At my school, these narrative comments focus less on work on more on learning. Teachers are encouraged to consider what they know about the whole child and to describe who each one is as a learner.

Who writes a report about the teacher as a learner? This creative teacher wrote his own report, an honest self- reflective appraisal of his first year teaching Year 6. (Read the whole post here.)

I challenge other teachers and leaders to reflect on their learning this year and write their own reports… 

Dean Kuran – Grade 6, 2016

Dean is a caring, enthusiastic learner who has taken many risks this year in his pursuit of being the best member of the school community he can be. He has demonstrated the qualities of being a risk-taker, moving into a new learning environment and being willing to take on new challenges, including a lunchtime drone-flying club, presenting and hosting TeachMeets, giving his students more ownership of their learning – while discovering the delicate line between ownership and anarchy – being ready to speak up and accept when he has made mistakes and responding positively to constructive criticism.

Dean has been resilient in the face of unforeseen circumstances, for both himself and his peers.  He has focused on finding a balance between extra-curricular activities and non-negotiable tasks. Dean has sought assistance from experts as he looks to take the next step in his development as a facilitator of learning, and has enjoyed experimenting more with inquiry approaches to writing and mathematics. He has dabbled in mindfulness, breathing exercises and a healthier lifestyle to reduce his stresses, and to assist those who also need time to regulate their emotions. 

Dean enjoys developing his learners into effective communicators so that they are confident and feel secure when they speak. He focuses on creating an environment that is safe, welcoming, flexible and energetic. Sometimes, the energy levels can reach a point that may not be conducive for effective learning, and Dean is encouraged to be more composed and forthright with this expectations. 

As an inquirer, Dean has experimented with a variety of approaches to his learning, including the split-screen method,  various thinking routines like this (a personal favourite, particularly in Number), and team-teaching. He has become so aware that learning is not about the product; it is about the process. The trials and tribulations. The new skills we learn, and the old skills we extend. The knowledge we gain. The actions we take. 

He is supported by a close network of mentorspeers and incredible learning support staff, who have enabled him to think deeply about the kind of educator, member of staff and person he wants to be for his students and those around him. He loves a walk down the road for a coffee too. 

Above all, Dean seeks two qualities from his learners, and they are the two that were sought from him by his parents; respect and responsibility.

Dean understands that there is a long way to go on this learning journey, but he is excited for what is to come next.

Process, not product.

Actions, not words.

 

(Leave a link to your report post in the comments.)

Instant communication and twice yearly report cards…

I am a ‘cloud granny’ , ever appreciative of the miracle of instant global connection which technology affords us…

Usually when I write about the Granny Cloud, it’s in the context of Mitra’s School in the Cloud.

Cloud ‘Grannies’ all over the world (people of all ages and genders) interact regularly and electronically with kids in a range of settings, currently mostly in India, but expanding to other countries too. As these sessions unfold, it’s rewarding to observe the children’s confidence grow, English improve and computer skills develop.

And I am also a ‘real’ Cloud Granny…

When my kids were little, we would take photos of their latest achievements, wait till the film was developed and then mail the prints a week later to the grandparents overseas. By the time they were received, the photos were out of date.

skypegrannyToday, I wake up to a series of photos and videos of 15 month old Shai’s latest antics. By mid afternoon in my time zone, I can expect the inevitable ‘Skype? ‘ message and I hear him laughing before we can even see each other on the screen.

The lovely teacher at Shai’s day care has set up a private Facebook page, where she posts photos and messages of the daily activities, so parents and (even faraway) grandparents can enjoy seeing the children playing, learning and interacting. It’s a joy to observe Shai’s love of animals on the day the animal lady comes and to watch his progress as he gradually learns to join in with the older children in musical and art activities.

So…

Why is it that, in this day and age of instant communication, schools and parents still expect the kind of report card suited to another era? 

Why do report cards traditionally go out twice a year, when there are endless ways teachers and learners can, and do, communicate their learning throughout the year?

Why do teachers spend great chunks of time reporting in a summative way on a final report, when formative assessment, goals and ‘feed forward’ during the year are so much more valuable?

Why don’t teachers, parents and learners share the learning via online portfolios, easily accessible throughout the year, demonstrating process, progress and final product, with facility for reflection by students, feedback by parents and ‘feedforward’ by teachers? (Let me know if you have a great system, we’re working towards it.)

Why don’t learners communicate their learning more with parents and the wider world through the many possible channels available online?

Why do governments and school administrators continue to dictate not just the existence of report cards, but often the format and parameters they should fit?

Why don’t we abandon report cards altogether?

Now, to prepare for the meeting in which we will review our reports and do our best to make them fit expectations and requirements…

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