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Communicating student learning progress: a review of student reporting in Australia

Educational tests and measurements Educational achievement Australia

Each year teachers and principals in schools across Australia invest much time and effort, and considerable expense, in activities related to communicating student learning progress. However little is known about the effectiveness of these activities, including the extent to which they are valued by stakeholders, whether they are considered to provide quality information about student learning, and whether there are alternative designs for these activities that might be more effective.

The Communicating Student Learning Progress project was initiated to investigate these questions. Focusing on the national research, policy and practice landscape related to how information about student learning is communicated, the project focused particularly on student reports as interest in this widely used form of communication about student learning was determined to be very strong. Interestingly, the project found that there is a dearth of research about student reporting and therefore there is little evidence about it. The project thus provides a starting point for the gathering of evidence about student reporting in Australia.

The project took place over a three-year period from July 2016 to June 2019. Project activities included:

  • Scans of the research literature to review formal research conducted into the quality of reporting about student learning progress.
  • Reviews of national, state and territory policies and guidelines across government, Catholic and independent education systems.
  • Examination of online platforms that schools use to communicate student learning, including desk reviews and interviews with providers to investigate what the platforms offered schools in terms of communicating student learning progress, and how the platforms were influencing student reorting design and practice.
  • Collection and analysis of student report examples from primary and secondary schools in different locations and in different systems across Australia to examine current practice in the design and use of student reports.
  • Collection and analysis of key stakeholder perspectives about communicating student learning – including students, parents/carers, teachers, principals, and education systems personnel – to understand their views about what works, what doesn’t and what’s needed with respect to student reporting

Key recommendations:

  • Schools and systems should use consistent terminology to communicate student learning
  • Student reporting should be continuous and aligned to the assessment cycle
  • Student reporting should explicitly represent and communicate learning progress
  • Student reporting should explicitly communicate student learning against expectations
  • Student reporting should clearly articulate how performance ratings are defined
  • Student reporting should present information that is accessible and provides different levels of detail
  • Student reporting should include specific directions for future learning
  • Methods used to communicate student learning should have distinct but complementary purposes


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