“The report is dead, long live reporting!”

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Just finished another reporting session…  PHEW! Know the feeling? For me, it’s usually bittersweet at best; the sense of freedom combined with feeling quite drained and a bit numb. Yay, I have my life back! Now, where was I?

In reference to PYP reports it was once said…

“Never has so much been written by so many, to be read (and understood) by so few.”

Ouch!
This comment was made to me by a friend a few years back. It made me laugh at the time as we’d finished writing reports and were about to embark on holiday (plus he used his Winston Churchill voice 🙂 ).
However, it’s a sobering thought if you start to do the maths. How much time is taken up writing, editing, proofing, peer-proofing, etc etc… not to mention the stress caused to some (most?) from this process.
This is all in the knowledge that the finished product, our beautifully crafted reports, offers untimely feedback in an outdated format, and aren’t being fully digested by the intended audience. Frustrating.

So, how can we better communicate our assessment & feedback to the intended audience?

There has to be another way!

At my current school we’re taking action to evolve the reporting process. We’re considering the purpose, the audience, and using all available tools to make the process more effective. It feels good to know that we’re taking action, and perhaps most importantly that the classroom teachers are being included in planning and negotiating the process of change.

We have moved from:

Last year:

  • 2 end of semester reports
  • 3-Way Conference (semester 1)
  • Student-Led-Conference (semester 2)
  • Hard copy portfolios, sent home at the end of each semester

This year:

  • 6 end of unit reports
  • ‘Open-house’ parent check-in after each unit
  • 3-Way Conference (semester 1)
  • Student-Led-Conference (semester 2)
  • E-folio (SEESAW- keep reading 🙂 )

I feel that we’re taking steps in the right direction, as the reports are more timely and contain less information for parents to digest.

As you can see above, we’re also using the SEESAW app, which has enabled us to nurture a ‘live’ conversation between students, their families, & teachers. Students can upload work and by the time they arrive home their parents have seen the work, reacted to it, and are able to have a conversation about it. They can post QR-codes around school which link directly to a piece of work designed to provoke a response, to inspire action.

I’ve been really impressed with SEESAW, which not only replaces our hard copy portfolios, but serves as a great ongoing tool to communicate assessment and feedback. The host of great features includes a student’s ‘stream’ which can be downloaded by parents, should they move to another school. Hard evidence of progress.

I’m wondering if this ‘stream’ would provide a better picture of the student as a learner than a traditional school report. I’m thinking that it could.

In fact, I’m wondering if the inclusion of the SEESAW App, used effectively and consistently across grades to communicate progress, and ongoing assessment & feedback, could replace the concept of a traditional ‘wordy’ report entirely.

The more I think about it, the more it feels like the concept of a written (‘wordy!’) report is more of a tradition which is quite simply stuck in the past.

Here are a few of the questions which I’ve been considering:

  1. What’s the purpose of a report? Is there another, more effective, timely and efficient way to do the same job?
  2. When our school welcomes a new student, do we (generally) read their previous school reports, skim the checkboxes, or simply check their standardised assessment data… or none of the above? If we had an email link to a digital stream of their work, with reflections, assessments, etc, could that suffice to provide a more accurate picture of our new student as a learner, than a hard copy report? Would we be more likely to interact with something ‘live’, dynamic, digital?
  3. How much time do teachers spend creating and crafting school reports at our school? How could they better spend their time and energy?
  4. How are the teachers at our school during ‘reporting time’? Are they working late and/or coming in on the weekends? Are some of them simply burnt out? If so, what are the knock-on effects of this?
  5. How many parents actually read (and understand- let’s be honest) our reports? If we’re encouraged to use PYP terminology, who apart from PYP trained teachers (and ‘super-mums’ 😉 ) can make sense of them?
  6. Could our assessment and feedback be more effectively communicated in an ongoing fashion, 21st-century style, including the use of an app such as SEESAW?
  7. Could a change to the system boost staff morale? If so, how valuable would that be?

I understand why reports were needed before the advent of the internet… there was no other way.

However, we evolve as educators, and our systems need to evolve too.

I feel that it’s an important conversation to have in every school. I’m not sure where other schools are at with their reporting systems, and I’d love to know, especially if you’re already ahead of us!

Thanks so much for reading, here’s to an efficient and effective future of reporting!

3 thoughts on ““The report is dead, long live reporting!”

  1. Hi Graham,

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Traditional school reports are undoubtedly one of the most time consuming, stressful parts of our work… and actually one of the least beneficial! Times have definitely moved on but our systems, generally, have not.

    I love Seesaw so much that I became a Seesaw Ambassador. Our school has just committed to Seesaw for Schools (the paid package for every class and admin rights). This is a positive step in the right direction. You’re right that Seesaw is more than just a digital replacement of paper portfolios. It offers so much to the learning process!

    Best,

    Adam

    Like

    1. Hi Adam, thanks so much for reading the post and for your response. SEESAW is just a great tool; I’m sure there are other similar apps out there which do a similar job, but for us SEESAW really hits the spot. I found out recently that there’s Google Drive integration now as well… fantastic!
      Regarding the reporting process, I feel that if we can create a system which will relieve stress from teachers, help us communicate more efficiently with students & parents, thereby refining the reporting process, it’s a no-brainer. Thanks again for reading 🙂

      Like

      1. I agree about Seesaw. We actually trialled a few similar tools before we committed to Seesaw for Schools. There are some good alternatives, but Seesaw is definitely the best. It’s just so far ahead and continually improving (Google integration this week, for exmple).

        Liked by 1 person

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