What’s the point of reports?: Who writes them (who reads them)? Who are they for?

‘Tis the season…. for reporting….

I have a few questions that have been guiding my own reflections on reports: What’s the point of reports? Who writes them (who reads them)? Who are they for?

Roald Dahl’s school report from 1927, at the Roald Dahl Centre, Great Missenden. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

What’s the point of reports?

The IB states that written reports are “a summative record for students, parents and the school itself of a student’s progress.” A good friend and colleague described current reporting documents to me as a receipt of the learning for the parents; to show that services have been rendered and “paid in full.” And this is why so many schools continue with reports the way they are because we have not yet found a better way to share with our wider community the learning that has taken place over the year thus far. But what if there was another way? And why in the 21st century have we not yet found a better way… or have we?

In our early childhood classrooms our teachers have used their Personal Learning Journey time to embark on an expedition with their students exploring SeeSaw (student driven digital portfolios). Their success with this reflective communication and documentation tool has led other grade levels to follow in their steps. In Grade 5 the students have been designing their own digital portfolios using Google Sites. With these tools in place do we need reports any longer? Or can we rethink how we report?

Who writes them (who reads them)?

Traditionally reports have been written by teachers for parents. But if we go back to the first question, what’s the point of reports, and we revisit the idea of assessment then why is this information only written by teachers and only shared with parents? Where are the children in this dialogue? At what point do they get a voice to share their learning and growth? Can we use reports to provide more feedback for students and parents, to allow for more self-assessment and reflection? Can we involve the child in this process more effectively?

Who are they for?

As was stated in the first question reports are a summative record of progress for students, parents and the school. If reports are for students should then students be reading their own reports? Should they be involved in writing them? Should reports be written to inform the child about their own journey and where to go next? And if reports are for parents could they not also benefit from hearing the voice of the child? Could the child and teacher share the learning story, the growth and progress together? What about the school? How does the school use reports? Who reads them within the school and for what purpose? As we look forward can we consider how schools use collaboration between teachers, with students to more effectively share the whole story of the child?

There are some great ideas out there that we can build on to revolutionize the way we report, why we report and who is involved. I would love to hear more from you on how you are structuring your reports or moving in a new direction.