Students should be writing their own report card comments 

Report card comments. I got them. You got them. Your grandparents got them. They are another great example of antiquated educational practices that take the responsibility of learning out of the hands of the learner and place them in the hands of the teacher. Do I know how the students in my class are doing? Yes. So do you. But are we providing students with authentic opportunities to reflect on and plan for future learning? Or are we doing that for them instead? 

Let’s take a look at the why, how and what behind student written report cards: 

Why should students write their own report card comments? 

  • At the end of the day, it’s their learning and they should be the one’s reflecting on it
  • Data heads (like John Hattie) can agree that the biggest determinate of student success is the student him/herself and reflecting/reporting on their own progress is a key process by which students can tune in to themselves as learners
  • Articulating one’s strengths and areas for growth is an important skill that can and should be transferred beyond the academic realm and into one’s social/emotional/physical wellbeing  
  • Allowing students to engage in the typically teacher-centred act of writing report comments empowers the learner and says to the child “I trust you – you know best about your learning!” 

How can we support students in writing their own report card comments? 

  • Provide students with a structure they can follow (What did you learn this term? What went well? What do you need to improve upon? What’s your plan for improving?
  • Engage in whole class inquiries into ways in which learners can identify their strengths and areas for growth
  • Work with students to generate lists of ways in which they can go about improving in their areas for growth 
  • Leverage spreadsheets and learning portfolios to help students compile data on their learning 
  • Focus students’ comment writing on familiar learning skills, obejctives and character traits to make the task less daunting and more connected to the students’ day-to-day learning
  • Allow for student creativity and freedom in the ways in which they articulate their progress

What can we expect from transitioning this responsibility to students? 

  • Empowered students taking ownership over their own learning
  • A school community that is learner-centred, rather than teacher-centred
  • More engaged conversations at conferences that can (and should) be led by the students 
  • Report card comments that become student-generated plans for how they are going to improve – plans that students, parents and teachers can refer back to on a term-by-terms and year-by-year basis
  • More teacher hours spent supporting student learning in more effective ways than writing comments that students can and should be writing for themselves 

If we must have comments on our report cards (a tool which is meant to be a reflection of learning), should they not come from the learner themselves? 

Have you tried student-written report card comments at your school? Would you?