Week 2 – Report writing sucks for teachers – Problem

Week 2 – Report writing sucks for teachers

My parents are teachers, and while they enjoy their jobs, there are aspects that just suck. And not sucks in the same way that going to the gym does, where it sucks now but makes you better in the future, but sucks just as something that is boring and pretty much unnecessary.

To expand, my ideal report card for a child would contain a paragraph or two along the lines of: “Daniel has above average ability level, but his success in class is hampered by some negative behaviours. He has also not completed all homework tasks this semester. In most subjects he has learned the core curriculum to a satisfactory extent. In Maths and English his work has been excellent, and in P.E. he has been less engaged.” Following this would be a list of grades (with some sort of meaning behind them, rather than just letters/number without explanation), and a list of the topics and skills that the student learned in each subject.

Instead, however, teachers (in the Australian public system, at least) are obliged to write a comment for each individual subject, and sometimes sub-topics of subjects. So, for example, something as banal as handwriting would get the same treatment as something as important as science or history. Kinda silly.

Problem definition

So the problem here is that teachers find themselves obliged to devote excessive time to writing comments for subjects about which there is just nothing interesting to say. As such, we want to reduce that, to give teachers more time to spend on more important aspects of their jobs.

Objective: Reduce time spent on writing report comments

Restrictions: Needs to provide enough flexibility that when actual variation between students exists, this is reflected in the report. Also needs to adapt to different situations (different subjects, different student genders).

Optional bonuses: Easy enough to use that I could send it to my parents and they could use it straight out of the box.

Potential solutions

This problem has already been tackled (see here, here and here, for example), but I want to approach it from tabula rasa rather than copying an existing solution.

  • A script for MS Word that fills in predefined text if a shortcode is typed (this functionality already exists, I’m pretty sure)
  • A program that bases comments on the student’s grade for each subject
  • A program that creates a new report for each student with template comments prefilled, including the correct pronouns and the student’s name
  • A program that suggests template comments from a database based on the student’s grade
  • A program that duplicates the first report written and then changes the name and pronouns