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Waiting for the end-of-term school report can often cause anxiety for both parents and learners.

Here’s a new way of thinking and some advice for parents on how to approach school report reviews with their children.

No chance to fix what’s broken

Waiting three months to hear how a child has fared academically during the term leaves parents with little to no chance to identify and correct any problems before that final ‘written-in-stone’ school report is issued.

“By the time a student’s school report card arrives, learning gaps that could have been addressed three months ago have been left to worsen further,” says Colin Northmore, principal at Evolve Online School. “A small, easily corrected, negative issue could result in things heading down a slippery slope as students lose motivation and become despondent.”

Is there a better way?

Ongoing monitoring of a student’s competence in tasks that is reported in real-time may be a far better way to assess their performance. It will also enable both student and parent to resolve issues as they take place, not months down the line.

And, moving away from judging a child’s academic ability based solely on the parroting of answers, exam outcomes and assessments will go a long way to reducing the stress and fear associated with the school report.

A novel approach

Evolve Online School has developed a live reporting system that focuses on growth and subject mastery while providing constant feedback. “The system lets students constantly earn points by completing their mastery and application tasks, says Northmore. “Parents and students can keep track online at all times to see whether the child is keeping up and submitting the required tasks. And if they are accumulating sufficient points towards mastery of a subject,” he explains.

“This mastery approach encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to submit multiple attempts at completing a task. This ensures that they can learn from their mistakes and not end up with a mark that only shows who they were, not what they have become. Results are updated each night once the activators (teachers) have graded the work. This immediate feedback is a source of great motivation for students,” says Northmore.

However, this approach is very new in South Africa and most institutions continue to issue the traditional school report card at the end of each term.

Tips for encouraging a growth mindset

Northmore says that those parents whose children receive the standard school report should adjust the way they approach and react to results. Focus on fostering a growth mindset. Rather than looking at the numbers or symbols as a final definitive measure of your child’s ability, view them and the results as an ongoing process.

When discussing your child’s school report, Northmore offers the following tips to make it a positive learning experience:

Focus on YET

Always approach school report review from the angle that nothing is final. The focus must be on the word YET. You have not YET completed the work; you have not YET mastered the piece. Regard education as a work in progress and that a less than ideal result doesn’t mean success is unattainable. Incomplete work and poor performance are great starting points for developing agency and a reflective process that leads to independence.

Review to control reaction

Review the report card by yourself before you discuss it with your child. Remove any immediate reactions of being dissatisfied with what you are seeing. Go through the report card, make notes of areas where you can see they did well, and then look at places where they might need to improve.

Create a positive mood and environment

Choose a quiet time to sit down with your child. Bring a treat to share (to create a positive mood and environment).

Discuss the positive results and improvements and ask them to share the work they are proud of/excited about with you. Leave the negative elements and areas requiring improvement for later in the discussion.

If they start to talk about areas where they have not done well, gently explain that that is a conversation for tomorrow and redirect to the positive. Eat your treats and celebrate.

Address the challenges

The following day, sit with your child and ask them to take time to think about the challenges they face and some ideas on how to tackle these concerns.

Focus on the work that they have not performed well in YET or have not YET completed. Ask them to think of strategies they can follow to resolve the YETS. Who can they ask to assist them? What can they read or watch? This encourages them to reflect and develop metacognitive thinking skills (thinking about their thinking) – a critical life skill.

Develop an action plan

Then help your child develop an action plan linked to specific times in their calendar to address the challenges and implement the strategies.

Lastly, remember that exam stress can influence children’s academic results, and that children learn in different ways.

Child Magazine