Reading Report Cards: Talking about Learning

Reading Report Cards: Talking about Learning

by Liz Andrews, Secondary School Principal

On Friday January 31 the Grade 6-11 semester 1 reports will be available online from 4pm. These report cards provide an update and signpost for progress in student learning. Report cards can also trigger a range of emotional responses for students and their parents. 

Thinking about how to discuss progress in learning is time well spent. One essential piece is that your child knows that your love and support are consistent regardless of the progress in learning and the language of comments. We often recognize that criticism can be harmful; but so can excessive praise that is only focused on outcomes or numbers rather than progress and skills.  It’s okay to share in a child’s disappointment as this can also give the message that you care and take notice, but don’t leave it at that. Move the conversation toward strategies for change. It is not your job to fix the concerns for your child. It is their job to turn those concerns around with your input and support.

Prioritize these conversations by allocating time at a constructive time of day (often not right before dinner or right before bed). If possible do it one child at a time so that everyone shares in the same conversation. If you find it easier to concentrate and respond appropriately with a cup of tea or coffee in your hand, get that ready beforehand so you can sit down for a nice chat with your child. Arrange a location where everyone who is going to look at the reports with the child can sit down together with the child and their report at the centre. The couch or the dining room table often serve well for this. Avoid distractions including interruptions from phones or potentially disruptive media. The message is that the child is the priority. 

During these conversations emphasize:

  • Positive Self-Reliance - communication that emphasizes effort and progress, as opposed to ability or fault, and independent achievement. Increasing authentic self-esteem and pride in accomplishment and overcoming problems.
  • Safety - promote risk taking and experimenting with different approaches.
  • Trust - preserve your role as a helpful resource the child can continually come to for assistance. 
  • Team support - help the child develop their own concrete strategies for responding to suggestions and areas for growth. 

When thinking about how to start or elicit conversations, you could use phrases like:

  • Tell me about your skills in two of your subjects ...
  • What are some of the things you are proud of from semester 1? Tell me about them...
  • What kind of pattern do you see in your report card? Describe it to me...
  • Looking at your approaches to learning, tell me about your strengths. What would you like to develop more in semester 2?
  • What part of the tutor comment means the most to you? 
  • Based on this comment what is one thing you would like to work on going forward?

Semester report cards are only one trigger for conversations about learning with your child. Progress reports, assignment feedback and conferences such as Middle School Student-led Conferences (Feb. 13, 5:00pm - 7:30pm) and Parent Teacher Student Conferences (Feb. 28) are also opportunities to learn more from your child about their progress in learning.