Up until semester 1 2013 we were doing traditional semester based reporting.
Comment is trying to cover a lot of bases.
The infrequency of semesterly reports means two things. Firstly, the information is usually too late. “Why didn’t we hear about this earlier?” is a comment that I have heard from parents many times. The other thing is that it makes these reports very very formal. Now this formality means that lots of checking has to occur with lots of levels of checking. What we found was that when you introduced lots of levels of checking what tended to happen was that the lower levels of checking never happened because they relied on the upper levels of checking to pick things up. This meant a heavy workload for the executive staff. Another thing about our reports is that they were 100% summative. This isn’t necessarily bad, it provides a good record of what they student has achieved. When combined with the formality of the report and the lovely paper and folder, parents really like it. But is it useful from a learning perspective? What it means is that students are always looking back at what they have done rather than looking forward to what they could achieve. Some have done a lot, some have not done that much. Given that the subject comment has to make mention of attitude, behaviour, organisation, there is not much room to provide specific advice for further improvement. All up it is a very labour intensive exercise and left us wondering whether all that effort was really all that worthwhile.
Hattie and Timperley show that improving feedback to students is a very worthwhile pursuit. If you were wanting to improve student learning outcomes at your school you could do a lot worse than pick this as an area of focus.There are lots of different types of feedback however, some more effective than others. Those studies showing the highest effect sizes involved students receiving information feedback about a task and how to do it more effectively ie corrective feedback. Lower effect sizes were related to praise, rewards, and punishment. The research also shows that feedback is most effective when all the protagonists are actively involved: teacher, student, and parent.
So we did away with teacher comments on semester reports in Years 7-8 last semester and have made use of the new Edumate feature allowing comments to be attached to tasks. This is the task detail view within the markbook. The little icon shows that comments have been attached. Clicking on this icon opens the comment box.
The nature of the comment has changed. Because it is only dealing with performance on the task the comment can now be specifically about what the student has shown they can do and what they need to work on in order to improve. We have stressed the need for these comments to be specifically focussed on the task. Most staff are going well, however old habits die hard and we are finding that some staff still write the same summative comments as they would on semester reports. More work is needed here.Note the comment bank. We have been discouraging its use.
We started early last year ensuring all our report carers had up to date email addresses and could access the parent portal. We had enabled parental access to Edumate several years earlier so most but not all parents were fairly ok at accessing Edumate. Over a number of years we have made more use of email communication between the school and parents so parents have slowly become accustomed to electronic communication. We held a number of parent forums on using the portal effectively and then as the time drew nearer we held parent forums on how on-time reporting would work. I obsessed over a possible parental backlash but it really never came. After we explained that comments were now accessed via the portal rather than through semester reports the response was ok. We accompanied this also with a blanket publicity campaign involving the website, regular mentions in the school newsetter and more emails explaining what was going on.
So what happened to the behavioural comments that used to be included in the semester comment? Well there was always a place for these and that is in the welfare register. We didn’t want to muddy our specific subject feedback with comments around behaviour so we have dealt with this via the welfare register. When parent access the portal these comments are gathered together under the welfare section as they should be. There can be positive comments or negative ones.
In order to prompt parents to check the portal regularly we make use of a parent weekly digest. This is an email that is automatically generated every Monday evening. It is sent to report carers whose child has received an update during the week. They may have an upcoming task or a recently marked task, welfare comments, an absence to explain or an upcoming excursion. If there is nothing new in the portal for the student that week then the parent will not receive an email.This is one of the most popular features. Parents absolutely love this.
In place of a subject comment we are now doing a subject outline which is the same for every student in that course giving parents an idea of what has been covered over the semester. The last sentence of the outline will refer parents back to the portal for further details.There have been two areas of parental concern.The biggest area of parental concern here has been over the decision to email the reports rather than print them. Quite a number of parents understandably like to show grandparents these reports and appreciate a hardcopy. We have had an opt-in list for printing hardcopies. This is growing however so we need to make a decision about whether to keep the email as default or just do both.The other area that parents have commented on has been a desire to include a summary of task comments. Again, for the grandparents. Edumate cannot do this at present.
We have only been doing this a short time. Our focus to begin with has been about educating staff and parents on the new system. We have not done much with students. This year we will start looking at student reflection. There is an area for this in the “show task details” within he portal.We still need to work on comment quality and the process of checking.
On-time reporting at Nowra Anglican College
On-time reporting at
Traditional look and feel, semester based, marks, grades, averages
Social and personal development…
"It is arguably well accepted that good feedback is a driver of
student performance.” Hattie &Timperley (2007)
The most effective feedback is specific corrective feedback related
to a task
The least effective is teacher praise. ie “well done”
So what we
No more teacher comments on semester reports
All tasks now have a comment attached.
So what we
doin orderto improve?
The comment is specific.What did the student demonstrate they
could do and what do they need to do in order to improve.
So what we
Lots of parent education focussing them on the parent portal
Asking for parents to update email addresses.
Semester reports now delivered via email as the default
Blanket publicity – website, newsletter, emails
So what we
viathe welfare register.
What about behaviour / attitude comments?
So what we
So what did
we do with
We still do semester reports
Semester reports forYears 7-9 do not have subject
comments.Years 10-12 do have comments.
In place of a subject comment we have a subject
We still have a pastoral section including comment,
co-curricular involvement, attendance.
To print or to email?
A table of task comments?