Each year, I spend somewhere in the region of 70 hours (outside normal working hours) writing reports which are to be sent home to parents. These reports are meant to give an overview of the student’s progress throughout the year and inform parents on their child’s strengths and weaknesses. I get the feeling, however, that the time I am spending has very little impact on the student and their progress.
My school has recently focussed on impactful assessment and feedback, encouraging us to spend less time writing detailed feedback and more time getting students to respond to feedback. This has been largely successful – teachers are spending less time marking and students are gaining more from the feedback given (win-win!).
We have not, however, extended this new mantra to report writing. As a teacher of a creative subject, this is one of the most stressful parts of the year due to the sheer volume of reports that I must complete. It varies each year, but I usually have to write 400-500 reports yearly, each containing an adequate and imformative assessment of the student. If I am unable to provide an individual report, I feel as though I have failed in knowing my students.
After a number of years of writing highly personalised reports, I am becoming disenchanted as I don’t believe that they are impactful – I am unable to see that what I write in the report has any impact on the progress of the student in my classroom. This is in stark contrast to parents’ evening, where the change in a student’s attitude to the lessons is immediately noticeable.
The difference between the report and parents’ evening is that parents are able to respond to my feedback immediately and I am able to respond to their response. They can ask me questions about my comments and I am able to obtain a bigger picture for that student. When I send home a piece of paper with some comments on, I have no idea if the parent has even read the comments!
In an age where technology is growing, I wonder whether the paper is fit for purpose and we should consider if there are alternatives to allow more dialogue between teachers and parents, as demonstrated in my parents’ evening example. There are many ways of approaching this – whether it be digital reports with comments boxes for parents, or even the expansion of parents evenings, but we really must start to consider how efficient the system is and if there is a more efficient alternative.