Optional reading - Review and critique of student reporting

The fundamental purpose of student reporting

Reporting shows where a student is along a continuum of learning and identifies their progress.     

Student reporting formats

Across Australia student reports must have:

  •  a teacher's judgement against the curriculum
  • an indication of progress since the last curriculum area was reported on
  • a five-point scale for every curriculum area taught.

In Victoria, there is no mandated report format. Schools have greater autonomy in how they report on student achievement and progress. 

What can be problematic with student reporting?


Norm-referencing provides information about student performance against their peers. However, additional information is needed to make it meaningful for student reporting. Norm-referenced assessment information alone does not help students improve. For example:

Black and William (2008), state that "feedback to any student should be about the qualities of his or her work, with advice on what he or she can do to improve, and should avoid comparison with other students" (Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment

Whilst norm referencing is a requirement for English, mathematics and science, there is flexibility for schools to include meaningful information around this and refocus the aim of student reporting.

Work habits

Judgements about work habits are problematic when they are not made against validated continua. Without this reference, they are often inaccurate and inconsistent.

Work habits made against validated continua can be very useful in a student report. They can inform people about a student's attitude, motivations, and dispositions.

Teacher comments

Like work habits, teacher comments can be problematic or useful in a report.

They are a problem when they:

  •  include jargon
  • describe elements of what was taught, rather than what was learned
  • draw from generic 'comment banks', that some parents and carers see as impersonal.

However, descriptive feedback can be valuable to students, parents and carers. Butler and Nisan (1986) found that students receiving descriptive feedback on an initial assignment performed significantly better on follow-up tasks.

How might we reimagine and enable more meaningful student reporting? 

The Communicating Student Learning Progress Review conducted by ACER in 2019 identified 8 recommendations to better communicate achievement and progress. 

Recommendations for communicating students learning Hollingsworth, Heard & Weldon(2019)

This Online Student Reporting Professional Learning Program (program) supports schools make reporting meaningful for students, parents and carers by including:

  • teacher judgements based on a range of evidence
  • comments focused on student progress
  • information that supports every learner to experience optimal growth
  • the right mix of report formats and strategies.

Attending 4.1.1Analysis Lens 1 - Reporting Principles in Learning Focus Area 4 of the program, will help ensure that a strong evidence base informs the overall strengthening of meaningful reporting.