Fifty years ago, when my parents were at school, each term they came home with a report card showing grades and comments from the teacher. While we now deliver reports electronically over email with perhaps more detail around outcomes and standards, it could be argued the fundamentals have changed little.

Over the past 5-10 years we have seen a lot of emerging evidence that shows that much of the data we put onto school reports is not overly helpful to the students learning lifecycle and in many cases, too late to affect change.

Duncan (2007), Hattie & Timperley (2007) and Spiller (2009), amongst a chorus of others, have come to a conclusion – give students more feedback! Make it explicit, early and often.

It is arguably well accepted that good feedback is a driver of student performance. Hattie famously analysed the effects of various educational innovations and methods and has determined that feedback ranks highest with an effect size of 1.13 (whereas most innovations in schools sit around 0.4).

So why do we give feedback? The main purpose of feedback is to “reduce the gap between current understandings, performance and a goal”.

This being the case, it is likely that the current standard of semesterised reports, where student feedback is given twice yearly, lowers the instance of corrective feedback to the students and their parents. Furthermore, this process does not allow for regular communication between all the main people in our story: the parent, teacher and student.

Spiller (2009) notes that it is commonly reported that students do not read teacher feedback comments. Spiller goes on to suggest that part of the problem is that teachers (and students) see feedback in isolation from other aspects of the teaching and learning process, and consider feedback to be primarily a teacher-owned endeavour. This gives weight to the consensus that the feedback process is most effective when all the protagonists are actively involved in the process.

As an educational technologist, I can’t help but wonder why so many of the tools in schools today are so entrenched in replicating the same processes my parents saw when they were at school. Schools need the tools to replace or improve the semesterised reporting process using a progressive feedback model where teachers can provide well-structured feedback (like Hattie and so many others suggest) on student tasks. Students can then respond to these comments by reflecting and setting goals, while parents are informed of progress in a timely manner online.

An effective progressive reporting model might look something like the following:

Working with schools on the Edumate project over many years, we have seen tremendous successes in student engagement and performance by using a model such as the one above.

The above process is easy to run, but the technology used needs to support the school. If your school’s admin tools cannot put current education best practice into effect, I would say it's time to look elsewhere!  

References

Duncan, N. (2007). "Feed-forward": improving students‟ use of tutor comments,. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 271-283.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77, 81-112.

Spiller, D. (2009). Assessment: Feedback to promote student learning. Waikato: Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako.

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