07 Jul How to Write Professional Progress Reports. 3 Essential Tips
Author: Ilinca Stroe
Any respectable well-established school will ask its teachers to write and hand their students progress reports on a regular basis (once a semester, say). That goes for young learner classes as well as adult groups, and the reports usually have a predetermined structure. For instance, reports on young learners’ development may include sections like “motor skills”, “cognitive skills”, “emotional skills”, “attitude and behaviour”, “teamwork”, while reports on adult students may focus on aspects like “listening skills”, “writing skills”, “grammar and vocabulary”, “functional exponents”, “motivation” and so on.
Writing student progress reports tends to be part and parcel of a professional teacher’s job, and a teaching(-related) skill in itself. Decent writing skills are required, and a predetermined structure certainly helps. But besides those basic prerequisites, there are three more suggestions we’d better keep in mind before getting down to drafting a student progress report:
1. Base your report on thorough continued monitoring. Monitor closely especially the speaking activities and tasks carried in class, lesson by lesson over a longer period of time (e.g. a semester), and take notes. Collect as many language samples from each student as you can, and put names to them. For instance: “Raul: ‘I didn’t knew she’s coming’”. Or: “Diana: good natural use of active listening markers like ‘I see’, ‘Really?’ or ‘And then?’”. You can even gather those notes into a collection, a record or “journal” of language samples from that class, organised by students’ names, so that you can easily find errors they have made regularly or structures and phrases they have acquired and used correctly. That record will be a goldmine for your report! Because it will provide valuable “raw matter” for its content.
2. Give specific examples and customised recommendations for improvement in your progress report. If it has a section titled “grammar”, it will probably be rather vague to write that such and such student “has made significant progress in her use of Present Perfect”. Instead, add a few real language samples with Present Perfect collected in time from that student: “I haven’t heard from him yet”, “I’ve just told you that”, etc. Be specific in your recommendations for further improvement, too. It’s not really enough to suggest “to improve your listening skills you should watch documentaries in English”; mention a site or TV channel where they can watch documentaries, mention perhaps whether they need more exposure to British or American English, formal or informal – and recommend specific sources accordingly (a certain movie, article or radio show, etc.).
3. Check and double-check your written English. On finishing off the report, make sure the subsequent proofreading and spell check process is really thorough, with enough time and attention allocated to it. For what authority are you left with to assess someone’s progress in the English language if your own written English is flawed? Your progress reports should be clearly and correctly phrased, with sentences that, while complex, are easy to follow, rather than convoluted, with paragraphs well organised via connectors, and with impeccable spelling (pay attention especially to “its” versus “it’s”, “their” versus “they’re” and other such common traps). If nothing else, your report is going to be read by the student as a piece of writing in English and, as such, it should simply be a perfect formal example they can learn or pick up bits of language from.
A final note: for many teachers it isn’t really a joy to draft progress reports at the end of each semester. They’re time consuming and, if you have to write dozens of them, they tend to dilute into a boring lengthy activity on a – worst case scenario! – rainy Sunday afternoon… Yet they can be enjoyed. If you think of progress reports as letters to your students, in which they can not only see their current English mirrored, but also find well-meaning recommendations which will take them one step further along their English-learning path, then you do see the importance and relevance of your report writing effort. You see it exactly for what it is: totally worth it!
International House Bucharest runs regular CELTA and DELTA courses for teachers of English at its Teacher Training Centre, as well as training events online, onsite or at partner locations. To sign up for a course or event, contact [email protected].