Communicating student learning progress

by Hollingsworth, Heard and Weldon

Overview of the research

The Australian project Communicating Student Learning Progress investigated:

  • the effectiveness of schools' methods of communicating student progress
  • the extent to which they are valued by stakeholders
  • whether they are considered to provide quality information about learning
  • whether there are alternative designs that might be more effective.

The three-year project ran from July 2016 to June 2019. 

Purpose of reporting

The Australian study found that schools were using a range of approaches to reporting. As in New Zealand, these included:

  • formal written reports
  • whānau learning conversations documented in writing
  • e-portfolios and other digital reporting tools
  • apps for real-time reporting.

They found that schools had rarely aligned these methods or crystallised the purposes for them. 

They commented that “being able to track a child’s performance in real time, is not necessarily synonymous with measuring their progress over time.” (full report, p33) 

The researchers recommended:

  • schools define a “distinct, but complementary, purpose” for each method they use and describe how they work together to provide a cohesive picture of learning.
  • school communities are informed about the different methods used in their schools and the connections between them.

(full report, p71)

Nature of reporting

The Australian study also found that “student reports tend to communicate achievement, but few appear to communicate student progress”.

While achievement information is important to students and parents, students also wanted individualised feedback on how to improve, and parents wanted individualised feedback on their child's progress and growth.

They also wanted this to be given in clear, plain language, free of jargon and generalities.

Reflective questions

  • What are the essential elements of effective reporting?
  • How do your reporting methods give parents a holistic picture of their child's learning and growth?
  • Which methods are best for which purposes? What can you streamline?


Earp, Jo. (2019). Research Q&A: School reports and communicating student progress. Teacher magazine. ACER.

Hollingsworth, H., Heard, J., & Weldon, P. R. (2019). Communicating student learning progress: A review of student reporting in Australia. Australian Council for Education Research website

The findings in brief 

The full report

The full report includes useful case studies in Appendix B, pp. 77-86.

Further reading

Real-time reporting – Enabling e-learning, TKI

Reporting to parents and whānau – Assessment Online, TKI

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