Report time comes around like clockwork each year.
While some schools differ in their approach to reporting, most issue reports at the end of each semester.
Everywhere across Australia, children and their parents open reports to discover grades, levels of achievement and teacher feedback. How we react — rather, how we respond — to our child’s report can be as important to their ongoing approach to learning as the learning process itself. The accidental frown, the wrongly phrased question, the harsh criticism that you ‘know’ they could do better can be crushing.
This can be especially difficult for those who are more fragile, but will affect all children really, as they will all want their parents’ approval and encouragement.
Equally as damaging, however, is gushing praise when the reality is that it’s not deserved. So how should we respond to our child’s report? The process should begin long before the report arrives.
“At Roseville College, we talk with parents about fostering a ‘growth mindset’ in students,” explains principal Megan Krimmer. “People of all ages who possess a ‘growth mindset’ believe that their qualities and abilities can be developed and improved with effort, and are empowered to strive for their individual, personal best in all areas of endeavour.
Such people also face intellectual challenges as a good thing and see failure (or not doing as well as expected) as a valuable learning experience.
The old adage ‘we learn from our mistakes’ is true.
If a child is nurtured with a ‘growth mindset’, evidence suggests that they are also more likely to outperform their ‘fixed mindset’ peers in all areas of learning.” Stanford University’s Carol Dweck has conducted compelling research that shows students who possess a ‘growth mindset’ are more motivated to attempt challenging work and are more resilient in the face of setbacks.
These students know they can improve over time by using helpful strategies and expending effort. They are hopeful and know they can learn and improve.
They also know they do not have to be perfect and that mistakes can be valuable learning tools.
Conversely, those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe they are born with certain qualities about which nothing can be done to improve their intelligence or ability.
(This relates to the old concept of IQ — which may be great for those with IQ scores well above average, but not for those whose scores fall below the magic IQ number.) “For all children who possess a ‘growth mindset’, I have found that the learning process is significantly enhanced,” reflects principal Megan Krimmer.
“The fostering of this mindset certainly begins well before reports are received at the end of each semester.
Then, when you do receive the report, it is helpful to open and read the report together with your child.
When my daughters were at school, I always invested time to sit down and read each report with them.
It was such a worthwhile thing to do. “My advice from the outset is to focus on teacher feedback rather than marks and grades.
Constructive feedback offered by your child’s teacher is much more important to your child’s ongoing learning than an actual mark or grade,” says Mrs Krimmer.
“This feedback should really help you as you work through the report with your child, as it should clearly state what your child has done well and also offer suggestions for improvement.
Then, as you read the report together, make sure you focus on and celebrate the achievements and positives and, in a meaningful way, show your child that you are very proud of all their achievements.
If your child is old enough, ask them to write down each one as they discover it.
Remember, every child, no matter how much they may struggle at school, will have achievements and positives to be highlighted.
If the positives are less obvious, look for new skills that have been learnt and reflect on past reports to acknowledge improvements that have been made.” Mrs Krimmer advises that once you have celebrated your child’s achievements (with much time allowed for this), it is helpful to review the report again with your child, perhaps the following day, to identify some areas that need improvement for the next semester.
“Set aside time that is quiet and uninterrupted,” says Mrs Krimmer.
“As you review the report this time, work with your child to identify a few areas — not too many — that could improve between now and the next report.
If old enough to do so, ask your child to write these down and help to prioritise them from the most important (to work on first) onwards.” Parents who help their child evaluate the report in this way also help their child to develop a ‘growth mindset’ as they work with them to set short-term, achievable goals and to devise strategies that help their child conquer a challenge or ‘weakness’. “You may set a goal that aims for relevant, measurable improvement in a particular subject, and a strategy may include talking with your child’s teacher to explore options that may support their learning, such as specialist help in reading or mathematics,” suggests Mrs Krimmer.
“Alternatively, at home a strategy may be setting aside dedicated time each afternoon to ensure homework is completed in a distraction-free environment.
Older children should be encouraged to devise strategies themselves so they have greater ownership and accountability of this process.
Monitor their progress at home, ask your child’s teacher how things are going at school and provide encouragement.
However, the true success of these goals and strategies will be most evident in your child’s next report. “Lastly, after celebrations and reviews are complete, ask yourself and your child, ‘Have they done their personal best?’ Usually a child is absolutely honest when answering this telling question! If they say yes, be satisfied with that; after all, no-one can expect any more of themselves or someone else if they truly have done their personal best.
If, at the end of this process, they admit that they haven’t, you have already worked with them to take positive steps in the right direction for the future.” Your investment of time and attention in your child’s reports will do much to enhance their approach to learning and life. By adopting a ‘growth mindset’ and taking positive, proactive steps with your child at report time, they will reap lasting benefits long after school years have ended.
The report time checklist