Saturday, January 28, 2012

Communicating Learning NOT numbers

The parent - teacher interview (or parent phone call, email etc) starts with the typical question:
How is my child doing in your class?
What if we, as teachers, were prohibited from listing "numbers" as a response to this questions?  What should the response be?

I fully understand that some parents want letter grades to frame their child's learning (in most cases it's how their learning was measured as students).  Given this reality, a teacher might (and in some cases -should) indicate an overall  achievement indicator (letter grade if appropriate).

After that, the unpacking should begin....

Aside from communicating an overall achievement indicator, what if a teacher were not permitted to refer to numeric scores (this would include numbers or grades associated with particular assignments)?  After all what does 15/20, 16/20 or 18/20 really tell a parent about a child's learning?

So what might be some alternatives?  As a teacher you might:
  • describe the student as a learner, thinker, writer, mathematician, scientist, artist, musician, etc - including some of their strengths and challenges.
  • talk about particular skill development and/or gaps in skill.
  • describe the student's literacy or numeracy skills in a way that is personalized and authentic
  • talk about  specific gaps in knowledge
  • speak about a specific learning plan - with specific interventions and supports that the parent might support you with, as  a classroom teacher.
  • talk about how the student communicates in class.
  • talk about patterns you are starting to notice about the students level of engagement (what's working what is not)
  • listen deeply to the parent and learn something new about the student
(Feel free to add some of your alternatives below)

When all is said and done, communicating numbers, in most circumstances, means very little when it comes to communicating learning.


  1. It has been awhile since I got a report card home. ( Going to be a gonna soon!) I do remember clearly the first thing I did when I started to read the report card. I went directly the comments to see what the teacher had said. Sure there was a string of grades and I smiled at the A's and B's but I really didn't know what my child had done or what they had learned without the comments and I used them to start the conversation at parent teacher conferences. I can tell you with certainty I am not alone in that experience.

    All the great examples you describe out shine the numbers and they are what parents appreciate. I particularly like the suggestion of describing how they can help their child and support you as a teacher at the same time. Every extra minute and effort you can take to tell a parent about the skills, abilties and tasks their child needs to master is invaluable.

  2. Hi

    I read this post two times.

    I like it so much, please try to keep posting.

    Let me introduce other material that may be good for our community.

    Source: Teacher interview questions

    Best regards